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The Most Depressing Day of the Year

By Rick Birt


The third Monday of January is sometimes known as Blue Monday: the most depressing day of the year. We’ll be honest with you: it is not based in science or peer-reviewed studies. Instead, it was made up by a travel company in 2005, and determined by an equation that considers weather conditions, debt, time since Christmas, time since new year’s resolutions have been broken, low motivation levels, and the feeling of a need to take action. Even though the actual science behind Blue Monday has been debunked, it brings up an important point. Moreover, it brings us a call-to-action around the topics of mental wellness during the winter months that affect millions of Americans.


Since you’re here, we know you’ve heard of SADD with two Ds. But today we’re here to talk about the other SAD, a less positive acronym that stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of depression that is related to the season, beginning and ending at the same time each year. Many people in the Northern hemisphere experience SAD during the fall and winter months when the days are shorter.


SAD symptoms are often the same as those of depression or depressive disorder, but Winter SAD is often accompanied by oversleeping, appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates, weight gain, and tiredness or low energy, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Blue Monday, pseudoscience though it is, has some truth to it in that it falls in what is often a difficult moment for people who suffer from SAD. The holidays have passed, and although spring is drawing nearer, the sun continues to set early, and the days in many parts of our hemisphere are cold and grey.


Often, SAD is written off as just the winter blues, expected to disappear as soon as Spring begins to, well, spring. But at SADD we know it is important to take steps to care for your mental health all year long.


Additionally, there is a larger matter at hand. We, as people who care for and support young people, need to keep in mind that, as SAD and winter continue, so too continues the mental health crisis that has been ravaging the nation's youth. We know the statistics: more than 1 in 10 youth in the U.S. are experiencing depression that is severely impairing their ability to function at school or work, at home, with family, or in their social life, no matter the season.


It is more important than ever to watch for changes in your friends, students, and children. If you notice them becoming disinterested in the things they usually like, changing sleep habits and patterns, gaining or losing weight unusually, or feeling more irritated, anxious, or volatile than usual, this may be an indication of depression.


If you notice these changes in your loved ones, or yourself, take action to improve and protect your mental health. Some ideas are sleeping and eating well, getting outside or purchasing a light therapy lamp, and confiding in family and friends about the way you feel. Being supported by others can be a huge help in someone’s journey with a mental health problem. Sometimes, however, these steps are not enough, and in these cases, you should consider speaking to a counselor or therapist, and/or taking medication to help alleviate your symptoms.


Use this Blue Monday as an opportunity to check in on your loved ones, and to take some self-care time for yourself. And remember: sunnier days are just around the corner.


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