Add To Favorites

'Blue Monday' isn't real, but depression can be

Victoria News - 1/22/2019

The "most depressing day of the year" has arrived.

Blue Monday – the third Monday in January – is said to be bleak a day for many due to weather, post-holiday debt levels, failing new years resolutions, the stress of going back to work and the general lack of motivation some people experience after time off.

But the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) debunked the "Blue Monday" myth, saying the formula used to determine this date as "the most depressing" is based on pseudo-science conducted for a travel company.

That doesn't mean Canadians are immune to winter blues – they just might not always be caused by winter.

Sarah Hamid-Balma, director of mental health promotion for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) BC division, said even if "Blue Monday" isn't real, it's important to talk about mental health any time of the year.

For those experiencing a low mood, Hamid-Balma says people should should look at their mental health history: "Is it every winter? is there a pattern with that? Are there other things going on in your life that might explain the depression?"

"It's important to note that depression can happen any time of year, and you can get depression in the winter that isn't seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – you might be going through major stress or loss or grief and it's more coincidentally happening in this season."

In fact Hamid-Balma says SAD – a form of depression associated with winter and autumn seasons and the lack of sunlight that comes with them – is extremely rare.

SAD involves patterns of major depressive episodes that impact a person's ability to do daily activities and often comes with symptoms of fatigue, weight changes and loss of interest in things a person typically enjoys.

"Most people think that it's really common, but actually, only two to three per cent of people have the clinical definition of SAD where they need professional treatment," she said, adding that around fifteen per cent of people may find their mood impacted by long periods of rain or overcast weather.

"But that still leaves more than 80 per cent of people who are doing okay."

So how can people know if their low mood is a "winter blah" or something more serious?

Hamid-Balma encourages people to get help at any time if they feel like they need it but says two weeks is generally a good test to find out how deep-rooted your low mood is.

"We all have bad weeks but if it's not going away on its own and it's impacting your ability to live your life then it's worth checking out," she said. "Two weeks is a good measurement with the normal ups and downs of life…"

No matter your love or disdain for winter months, Hamid-Balma recommends exercise, social support and outdoor-time to strengthen mental health.

CMHA offers a number of resources for anyone with questions about mental health. Crisis Service Canada has a hotline available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566.