Senior Lecturer John Marsden

Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, falls on the third Monday in January every year. While the day has been widely debunked as pseudoscience, a counselling expert at Edge Hill University explains why mental health awareness should be a year-round conversation. 

Originally devised as a PR stunt by Sky Travel to encourage customers to book a winter holiday, Blue Monday is supposedly the accumulation of post-Christmas blues, cold winter nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills, which can leave many people feeling low. 

Although the idea of one particular day being the most depressing is universally disputed by experts, mental health issues continue to affect millions of people across the UK. 

According to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, one in four people experience mental health problems each year. 

John Marsden is a Senior Lecturer at Edge Hill University and has more than 20 years’ experience as a counsellor. He said: “January tends to be a busy period for counsellors in general, as many people make new commitments to tackle their long-standing mental health issues. The shorter days and cold winter nights can encourage us to withdraw into ourselves and that is a risk factor for people developing depression. 

“But that’s not just because of Blue Monday. It’s important that there are official days in the year that enable us to stop and acknowledge mental health concerns, but the danger is that we forget it’s an all-year round issue that should be in the spotlight throughout the year.”

A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that rates of depression have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, with almost one in five adults likely to experience some form of depression during the outbreak.

John added: “There’s no doubt that the pandemic has heightened mental health issues for many people. The impact is felt twice-over, because as well as the horror of the virus, with its impact on physical health, depression and anxiety, lockdown removes some of the key coping strategies that would usually be used to ease our distress: physical contact with others, socialising, going to work and attending cultural and sports events”.

John offered the following advice for those who may be struggling with their mental health during the pandemic.

He said: “Good self-care is key. Remember the basics of good nutrition, staying hydrated and having plenty of rest. Because if you miss out on those, it is going to exacerbate the issue.

“Another point is that if you are able to identify your feelings and express them to others in a warm and empathic atmosphere, then that can feel liberating and the deep connection it creates is a real protective factor for depression. The ability to talk to people you trust and be honest about your concerns can be a real help.”

Edge Hill University’s Wellbeing Team is available to support students with their health and wellbeing needs throughout their time at Edge Hill. Members of staff are encouraged to contact the Wellbeing Support Service, who are available to provide wellbeing support during the pandemic, at wellbeingsupportservice@edgehill.ac.uk.

Campus Support are always available out of hours to provide help while on campus and can be reached on 01695 584227.

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 (free from any phone) or you can email jo@samaritans.org. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.