The Blue Monday myth

By Geoff Lee

January 19, 2016 12:42 PM

Neil Harris, addictions and mental health facilitator for Men at Risk at Alberta Health Services, has lots of resources for people to get through the so-called Blue Monday week with a smile.

Is today the second bluest day of the year? If so, did Blue Monday just slip right by?
The answer is no, according to the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary that’s seizing the moment to promote suicide prevention and awareness this month.
It’s using Blue Monday week to shoot holes in the belief the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year, and the day when most suicides take place.
“There’s this myth out this is the bluest time of the year,” said Mara Grunau, of Suicide Prevention.
“In the north it can be grim especially when it’s winter, winter, winter” she said.
“I was just talking with someone from Winnipeg who said it’s a balmy -25C so we all know what’s that like in Canada.”
However, Grunau said when it comes to actually tracking data, depression and suicide deaths are no higher in January than they are at any other time of the year.
“That’s not to take away individuals who have died from suicide in January, but as a group our numbers are not higher at this time of year,” she said.
In Alberta, there are about 500 suicide deaths every year.
The final count for 2015 could reach 654, according to a mid-year projection issued by the medical examiner’s office. “We don’t have all the data for 2015 yet,” said Granau.
“We only have it for the first six months and the numbers appear higher than they were before.”
From January to June 2014, there were 252 suicides in Alberta and during the same period in 2015 there were 327.
Granau said while some blame the economy for the rise in suicides in Alberta, research tells her it typically takes up to two years before a downturn can trend into more suicide deaths.
In a news release, the centre says it’s easy to understand why the belief in Blue Monday, that fell on Jan. 18 this year, persists in the post holiday season.
People may be missing their family and friends, have piled up debts or have lost their jobs.
Granau said there may be lots of reasons for feeling blue at this time, but the measured data shows the suicide rate is not any higher in January than the rest of the year.
In fact, most suicides happened in the spring and summer.
“I think it’s important to remember that anybody can have thoughts of suicide and there are people around us who are looking for help all the time,” said Grunau.
“If it takes a made up date to draw attention to it then so be it.”
She noted the idea behind Blue Monday originated around 2005 by a travel agency seeking to boost trip sales and has no scientific weight behind it about people’s moods.
She said what they want at the centre though is for people to be bold and reach out and help each other.
“We have to cast that safety net for everyone all year round,” said Grunua.
She said if you think a friend may be suicidal, it’s okay to express your concern and ask them outright.
“If the person is considering suicide they will say yes and then your job is not to solve their problem because you can’t solve their problem,” she said.
She said your job is to call the toll free distress line in Edmonton at 1-800-232-7288 and get yourself some help for your friend.
“If your friend isn’t actually suicidal they’ll just laugh and say, ‘No I am not thinking of suicide,’ but they will not forget how caring you were to risk everything to ask them that” said Granau.
Lloydminsterites can also call the number that’s operated 24/7 by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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