There is no such thing as Blue Monday. If you’re particularly suggestible, this might incur a sigh of relief.
It was originally devised by Dr Cliff Arnall, a psychologist and (apparently more importantly) a business coach; he was approached by a travel company who wanted a gimmick to help business pick up in a quiet month.
So, not really “the most depressing day of the year”; more “another confection invented by businesses and the media to sell more shit”. But then, I suppose, to the business-minded, that doesn’t sound quite as catchy.
(Again; if you are particularly suggestible, this may explain the package holiday you have purchased and are now eagerly awaiting for the next seven months.)
Yet somehow, since its incarnation, Blue Monday has crept steadily into our minds through the mainstream media and become legitimised in the public consciousness. This wouldn’t be such a huge problem if the Liberal Democrats hadn’t, this year, decided to leap on it in a trivialising effort to win some brownie points by revealing a new policy. For one night only, the elephant in the room is suddenly relevant.
While I have absolutely no problem with much-needed awareness being raised of the plethora of serious illnesses not considered ‘real’ enough by the public psyche, the introduction of a “zero suicide” campaign seems a huge and insensitive mountain to try to climb.
When this is the first measure to be introduced in recognition of the 1 in 5 UK adults who suffer from clinical depression, some questions need to be asked.
Firstly; why, at the same time as these measures, are further austerity cuts being made to actual mental health services (for instance, the brutal axing of a further 1500 beds in mental health facilities)? Particularly when the beds in question have recently seen demand for them rise 30 per cent?
And secondly, why do the party only wish to intervene at the point where people are seriously considering suicide? This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and thought on the part of those who have devised the initiative.
Suicide is not the problem but the result.
The result of many years of serious illness, which, for the most part, is ignored by the general public and the government, and trivialised into a selling device by mainstream media and purported psychologists.
Still, depression is a taboo. It is not named in this policy. Neither is any other highly stigmatised mental illness. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mania and hypomania, borderline personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, anxiety, psychosis…. the list goes on and on.
And yet, it doesn’t. At no point does the Liberal Democrats’ policy name any of the mental disorders that can, through many other outside factors as well, lead to suicide. At no point does it attempt to address cause and effect at an earlier or less extreme point.
Until they can separate fact from fantasy, it is going to be very difficult for any political party to get even a foothold on a sensible policy to tackle the rising tide of mental health problems in this country.
Perhaps they could start by listening.