If you’re feeling a little down today, it’s likely because it’s the third Monday of January, the most depressing day of the year. Or maybe not.

Dubbed Blue Monday for more than a decade, some believe the term started when a UK psychologist who specializes in seasonal disorders declared it the most miserable day of the year based on a mathematical formula; others decry it as a publicity stunt by a travel agency to sell winter vacations. While Blue Monday may be a myth, the reality is that mental health is a year-round issue. And nobody knows that better than the staff and volunteers at the Distress Centre.

Mike Velthuis Kroeze, Distress Centre Crisis Manager, believes the truth lies in the numbers. And statistics show that call volumes to the Distress Centre in 2018 were actually higher in July (8,500) as compared to January (7,986).

“Most of the calls we get are psychological distress,” says Mike, as compared to calls from people thinking about suicide, which comprises about 10 per cent of Distress Centre calls.

“Sometimes callers are feeling that life is extremely overwhelming in that moment – everything is happening at once, the kids are acting up, and there’s no food in the fridge,” continues Mike.

“Other times, it might be about feeling lonely and isolated with nobody to turn to. It could be job loss, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, or financial stress. And sometimes, it may just be needing someone to talk to about their dog passing away. We don’t define crisis. The caller defines it. It is very real for them.”

No matter the situation, day, or time, calling the Distress Centre by dialing 211, will connect you with a live person to provide compassion, empathy, and information on how to access services that may be needed. 211 Calgary and Area is a joint initiative between the Distress Centre, The City of Calgary, and United Way of Calgary and Area. It’s the go-to service, operated by the Distress Centre, with database access to thousands of resources spanning community, social, health, and government services.

And if you don’t want to call, you can text. This option is preferred by teens as evidenced by the Connecteen program, a safe place for teens to connect with youth volunteers when in crisis, which experienced a 115 per cent increase in contacts in 2017, mostly through chat or text.

Distress Centre volunteer Emily (name changed to protect privacy), found that as a student she was affected by the winter blues. “I really think there are certain times of the year that affect people. It affected me personally, especially when I was in school and dealing with that stress. Plus, we’re all coming down from a holiday high and we’re forced to come back to reality.”

The philosophical thinking behind Blue Monday is the lull following a festive period of socialness, bills coming in, cold weather, and shortened daylight. Pseudoscience or not, if Blue Monday encourages conversations about mental health, that’s a good thing.

United Way will be continuing the conversation of mental health as an #UNIGNORABLE social issue over coming weeks to help remove the stigma and we hope you’ll chime in with your voice. Because even if Blue Monday is not real, depression is.

Tips to combat the winter blues

  • Get outside: even if you have to bundle up, a brisk walk can do wonders for your mid-January mood
  • Crank up the music: make an upbeat Blue Monday playlist with all your faves
  • Random act of kindness: Blue Monday is the perfect day to pay for coffee for the person behind you in the Tim Horton’s drive-thru
  • Clear the clutter: it’s a great way to help you focus and feel productive
  • Call a friend: you know that upbeat feeling you have after you spend time with a good friend? Blue Monday is a great day to get together