Somewhere back in the early 2000s, I became aware of the third Monday in the month of January being a “Day” – Blue Monday. Now for me, Blue Monday was a song by Fats Domino possibly with connections to the Billie Holliday song Gloomy Sunday.
Then, I was made aware it was also a synth-pop “song” by a band named New Order. However, it seems someone came up with “calculations” that the 3rd Monday in January was the saddest day of the year. From there, people extrapolated that since that particular Monday was the saddest day of the year it had to be a day where suicide peaked.
Having learned that, I went into mythbusting mode as all the data I had been aware of pointed to springtime as the largest number of suicide attempts and deaths. Granted, there have been some limited studies showing that suicide increases on Mondays but the findings were not enough to delineate Monday as “The Day”. Looking further into the matter, I discovered that Blue Monday was the result of an esoteric calculation used by a travel company to promote, surprisingly, travel. Ironically, the author of the “saddest day of the year” logarithm also computed the Happiest Day of the year to be in the middle of June.
While the numerology is interesting, the conclusions and their relationship to suicide are unfounded. The reality resulting from the mythbusting shows suicide rate is lowest in the winter months and it peaks in the spring and summer months. Additionally, the mathematics does not take into account differences between the northern and southern hemispheres. Also, it is my worry that once we accept a single day as the most dangerous we lose track of the grim fact that suicide is an equal opportunity killer that does not follow a calendar. It, suicide, also does not follow demographics. Yes, some groups of people can be at higher risk than others but if we focus on only those groups we end up missing all the people from other groups who are at risk.
But I am not a person averse to using any opportunity to spread the word of suicide awareness and how, with awareness, we can prevent harm or death from suicide. Accepting, for whatever reason, that the 3rd Tuesday in January is the saddest day of the year, let’s leverage it to educate people about suicide awareness. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!
1 – Begin with yourself. Ask yourself who you would talk to should you ever be at risk from suicide. Once you make a choice, take time to talk with that person or multiple people about your choice. In that way you develop a safety net for not only yourself but for the people you talk to.
2 – Be familiar with the clues someone may be at risk of suicide. There are many, many lists of many, many things that can place a person at risk. They can all be distilled into two words – change and loss. If you encounter a person talking about how changes or losses in their life have had a major impact there is a good possibility suicide may be on their minds.
3 – If you think, feel, or sense someone you encounter is having thoughts about suicide placing them at risk ask them – “Are you thinking about suicide?” Your asking will not place them at risk but it could help them be safe.
4 – If you find someone who is at risk of suicide talk to them. This may not be the time to solve all their problems but it is the time to help them feel connected. Be persistent. Be caring. Be willing to help. Be willing to help them to find others to help. Who knows? The person you help may someday be the person to help you!
5 – Be aware of the contact information for the local crisis intervention or suicide prevention service and call it with the person at risk.
So Blue Monday will soon be upon us – January 18, 2021. Use it as an opportunity to spread the word that while it is only a single day suicide is a 365 day a year issue. Use it as an opportunity to share that you or any other person who cares can play a role in preventing death and harm as a result of suicide. Use Blue Monday not as a beacon of sadness and despair but a bright light of caring and safety for those at risk!