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Beating the Blues
I see that Monday 18th January this year is being called ‘Blue Monday’ because there’s some suggestion it is the most depressing day of the year. There’s a lot of reasons why this might be, people back to work after a holiday break over New Year, perhaps in debt after spending at Christmas, perhaps having drunk or eaten too much, little daylight, and this year some truly awful weather. This got me wondering why we use the term ‘blue’ to denote features of depression.
There’s an early mention in an eighteenth century play called Blue Devils meaning sadness. There’s an earlier mention from the seventeenth century of the term ‘blue devils’ meaning the effects of withdrawal from alcohol. Then later on the word ‘devil’ is dropped and we see the adoption of the term blue on its own to mean depression. At the beginning of the 20th Century we see the term blues being used to describe a form of music that uses what are called ‘blue’ notes.
Now days like Blue Monday can be useful ways of raising awareness of the issues involved. I was inspired to write article this by a local news item I’ve just read whereby a local business is doing their bit to try and ‘Beat Blue Monday’ by making a donation to a local MIND group. So the idea becomes one of trying to overcome Blue Monday, rather than accepting it. Beating Blue Monday is about doing something different that could make a difference to someone else’s life, and our own! That might be about making a donation, or it might be about offering a skill or service to a group of people. I’ve just read a very inspiring article about the former footballer Leon McKenzie whose father talks about his son’s depression. He says ‘All we can do is show love and understanding. And that’s what I do with Leon every day.’ There’s another great gift.
Doing Something Good
Now finally a word of caution. All of the factors I’ve mentioned about this time of year may well be trigger factors in depression, but we need to understand there is a difference between feeling a bit down after Christmas, and suffering from a severe depressive illness. This may happen at any time of the year with no apparent trigger factors. So we need to think about depression in its widest sense, and treatments may vary. However the basic message of Beating Blue Monday, of doing something for someone else, as a way of promoting self-worth and trying to feel good about ourselves is a strong one.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor