Let’s Talk About Blue Monday

For some people, every day is Blue Monday        

Yesterday, as I was driving to work, the radio newscaster was stating that Monday, January 21 was heralded as the most depressing day of the year.   By the time I got to the office I had listened to radio banter about Blue Monday the entire drive, only to be met in the hall by a co-worker stating that today was the day the most suicides would occur.  Apparently, Blue Monday has everything to do with the dreary winter weather, post-Christmas timing and anxiety due to overspending.  What a blue way to start the work week.

Mental health is something that we need to take very seriously.  As a person who has seen the bleaker side of my own emotional and mental state, the dark cloud that hangs over you, shrouding your view is not something you can simply brush off, in fact, it won’t brush off – not without proper medical care and support. 

I’m not alone - one in three Albertans will receive a mental health service from a physician in a three-year period.  It’s never easy admitting that you have experienced or are experiencing depression but with more people like Olympian Clara Hughes (Bell’s official spokesperson) coming to the forefront to talk about the issues, it makes it easier for people like me to talk about it.   

It’s difficult to call in sick when, for the most part, you’re not showing physical symptoms of anything.  The physical symptoms can, and often do, come later – and they come in many forms.  You seem to catch every virus that’s out there, or you just can’t seem to get enough sleep – or worse – sleep eludes you.  The only thing that’s for certain is that dark cloud.

“Oh, that’s an easy fix!”  “Pull up your bootstraps, what have you got to be sad about?”   Really?  Easy?  There’s nothing easy about mental illness, and for so many people, the support and care they need might be out of reach.  Please imagine this – you are employed but you have no drug insurance coverage, and, if you don’t have drug insurance coverage, you probably don’t have coverage for psychological services.   

That isn’t the case for me, but for many, it is the cold hard truth.  The medications to treat depression can be very costly, and a one hour counseling session can cost between $80 and $150.  So, many people forego the medicine and counseling help and try and muddle through it on their own – as you can imagine, that approach has its ups and downs.  No pun intended.  Many will lose their jobs because they called in sick one too many times.  To add to the hardship, they may not have sick day benefits because, in Alberta, sick days are not legislated, they are a benefit provided by the employer.  Without the benefit,  sick days are days off without pay.     

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Now a whole new set of problems become present.    Many people fall into poverty because they just don’t have the capacity, support or resources to address the root causes of their issues.  And, mental illness can be the root cause that leads to so many other issues – income, housing, food-security, family stability and meaningful, steady employment.  When we are well, we have a better chance for success, but when we are experiencing illness, of any kind, we are often set up for failure and judgment. 

My wish is for all people in our community to be supported in the same way I am  - with a caring and accessible system that helps provide the medicine and services they need to be well – to be the best they can be. 

Through investments to United Way, under our Wellness Pillar, many people are getting the help they need but as a community, we can do better – we need to do better.  We owe it to one another – because creating and supporting a healthy community is up to all of us.

In our next issue of WE Magazine, available February 18, 2013, we feature a story on how workplace support can help those coping with mental illness.  Watch for your copy, delivered in select areas via the Edmonton Journal, or visit wemagazine.ca to read our digital version.


If you think you need help, visit:  http://alberta.cmha.ca/


You can’t actually see the dark cloud over Nancy Critchley’s head, and in fact, if you know her, you might be surprised to learn that she has ever struggled with depression.  She is a happy, healthy and productive person – a wife, mom of three and grandma of five.  She is also the Director of Communications for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and an advocate for good mental health.