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Monday, January 6, 2014

Please Don't Kill Yourself Today

Posted by on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Don't kill yourself any day. Slog loves you. It gets better. But apparently today is the most depressing day of the year.

(PS — Look, it's a socialist at her first Seattle City Council meeting. That'll cheer ya right up, mates.)


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undead ayn rand 1
Please don't link to the Mail.…

"I'm not going to tell the same story once a year even if it crops up in parliament, every newspaper, and all over Radio 4: there are more interesting things to say than "Blue Monday is bullshit", but before we get there, let me briefly clarify how Blue Monday is definitely bullshit.

The "most depressing day of the year" began life as a "wacky academic" equation story. This is the kind of thing PR companies offer as "advertising equivalent exposure" for companies who want their brand in the papers.

The equation stunt was not the work of an academic, it was paid for by Sky Travel, and Blue Monday comes just after your first pay cheque arrives, the perfect time to book a holiday.

It has been co-opted by the Mental Health Foundation, and the Samaritans, presumably with good intentions. But there is no reason to believe the population really is more miserable in January.

I reviewed the evidence from more than 30 studies over 130 years on the subject last year. Some find more suicide in spring and early summer, some in spring and autumn, some in summer only, some find no pattern at all.

Many have sampled representative individuals from a population and followed their mood over a year, finding: more misery in summer, more in spring, more in winter, or no peak at all.

Antidepressant prescriptions peak in spring, or in February, May and October. GP consultations for depression peak in May-June, and November-January). Admissions for depression peak in autumn, or spring and summer, while eight studies found no variation.

So Blue Monday does not put a catchy name on a simple human truth. It only really shows us how easy it is to take an idea that people think they already know, and then sell it back to them. Even if it's false.

While it might be tempting to try to piggyback on nonsense, communicating on mental health issues – like anything interesting — requires that you challenge stigma and assumptions, not reinforce them.

But it's also worth thinking about the wider consequences when we indulge, deploy, and therefore normalise, nonsense. This year Blue Monday has been promoted by Mentaline, a new business venture selling online webcam counselling for £50 a session. Its last PR news story was three weeks ago: "Teens fake mental health issues to look cool at school" was the headline in the Mirror.

"MENTAL illness is the latest fashion accessory for teenagers, a survey revealed today," they explain. "Youngsters are faking serious conditions … 34% admitted lying about having a mental illness in the past." They even have a list of the "top five phantom problems" that teenagers pretend to have: "Eating disorders, 22%; self-harming, 17%; addiction, 13%; depression, 12%; bipolar disorder, 9%."

This does not feel like a constructive contribution to stigma, or the perception of serious mental illnesses. These seem like very serious claims about a sensitive issue, and the figures are spectacularly unlikely. I asked 10 Yetis PR (the public relations firm which says it did the survey) who was surveyed, what proportion of teens responded, what the basic demographics were, and so on. The company has yet to answer.

Bullshit is a slippery slope. All I suggest is that you should think a bit before you step on to the crest."
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 6, 2014 at 9:57 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 2
(<3 ya Dom.)
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 6, 2014 at 9:58 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 3
@1 - Thanks for that. You are, as always, a gem.
Posted by MacCrocodile on January 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 4
This thread/post is already an excellent example of why people come to Slog for the comments, and not the actual posts.

Posted by Theodore Gorath on January 6, 2014 at 10:06 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 5
If I went deep into debt for a fake holiday pushed by corporate blood suckers, I'd be depressed too.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on January 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Dominic Holden 6
@1) Oh, thanks. Now I have to go kill myself.
Posted by Dominic Holden on January 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 7
@1 How do we know this isn't just a big marketing ploy by New Order? That neither the Guardian nor the Mail mentions this possibility is suspicious.
Posted by Sir Vic on January 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this
rob! 8
If you like your buck-ups quirky and poetic, here's "No Hemlock Rock (don't kill yourself)" by Jennifer Michael Hecht on The Writer's Almanac a week ago today.
Posted by rob! on January 6, 2014 at 10:29 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 9
Seconding the thanks to you, @1! The closer should be our permanent Slog motto:
Bullshit is a slippery slope. All I suggest is that you should think a bit before you step on to the crest.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on January 6, 2014 at 10:33 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 10
@6: It makes me listen to New Order every year, so all is good!

Topic aside, I comfortably assume that every single link from The Mail is false and my only efforts towards looking them up involve taking pleasure in how false the information is.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 6, 2014 at 11:06 AM · Report this
Dougsf 11
I can't find the source now, but I just read suicide rates are the highest in April. Not so wonderful, Daily Mail. I will say this, though—fuck a bunch of first-real-week-after-the-holidays.
Posted by Dougsf on January 6, 2014 at 12:34 PM · Report this
@7: you bastard, I can barely type from cracking up....
Posted by Hanoumatoi on January 6, 2014 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Knat 13
I couldn't disagree more. Yesterday was fantastic, and today is shaping up nicely, with three separate instances to make he excited for the near future (and possibly beyond).

Sorry to gloat, but today is a really good day.
Posted by Knat on January 6, 2014 at 1:16 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 14…

A nice making of Blue Monday...
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 7, 2014 at 6:42 PM · Report this

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