Voices: As a Samaritan, I know that dismantling the ‘Blue Monday’ myth will help save lives

Among a rise in disinformation and conspiracy theories, dispelling the myth that “Blue Monday” exists is more important than ever.

The third Monday in January is commonly – and erroneously – labelled “Blue Monday”. It is supposedly the “saddest day of the year”. While we see it trending every January, how is this measurable?

At Samaritans, we know that people find life difficult at all times of the year. We don’t tend to see significant spikes in people contacting us. Rather, our listening volunteers are consistently busy, responding to a call for help every 10 seconds, every hour of every day of the year. A pretty humbling thought.

Unfortunately, “Blue Monday” is not the only myth around mental health, suicide and self-harm we regularly see, particularly across social media. Our dedicated team work extremely hard behind the scenes to counter false narratives – for example, calling out the rhetoric labelling builders “woke” for talking about their feelings – while we often encounter unhelpful but well-meaning viral posts about suicide rates which just aren’t true.

The reason why we’re especially keen to ditch the Blue Monday myth this year – hopefully once and for all – is that help-seeking has never been more important. Equally, dismantling any ideas that dissuade someone from reaching out for support is just as vital.

With the cost of living pressures following directly on from the pandemic, on top of “everyday” challenges, times are tough. We shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit it.

Perpetuating the “Blue Monday” myth is potentially dangerous because people may put off reaching for help if they think everyone else is also feeling down. It could also lead people to think they “ought” to be feeling sad, or believe other people are “in worse” situations. We do not want anyone to dismiss or minimise the challenging issues they’re facing.

Instead, we aim to turn the day on its head and into something meaningful by running “Brew Monday”, which encourages friends and family to check in with one another over a cuppa. Our social media channels will also gently be encouraging brands trading on “Blue Monday” messaging to step away and stop monetising this outdated falsehood. We’ll also be trying to knock the Blue Monday hashtag off its top spot by replacing it with #BrewMonday.

Over the years, a lot of progress has been made to reduce the stigma around mental health and encourage people to be more open about what we’re really going through. However, as many of us continue to struggle – or are supporting someone who is – we can’t rely on these positive steps forward to continue unaided. There’s work to be done.

Every reminder that help is available, that dark times are not necessarily permanent, and that there are reasons to be hopeful can be life-changing – life-saving even. Every bit of encouragement helps.

Suicide is a tragedy that devastates those affected – and yet, it can be preventable. Turning our back on “Blue Monday” and saying we reject this trivialisation of real human emotions and feelings would go a long way to reaffirming our support for one another, and our commitment to creating a more conscious and thoughtful society.

Hannah Lattimer is social media manager at Samaritans

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.