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Prof. Claudi Bockting: ‘Hyping Blue Monday causes inflation of concept of depression’

11 January 2012

In 2005 a British psychologist came up with Blue Monday, the idea behind his theory being that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. Although there is no scientific basis for this idea, the media have a field day every year. This is unfortunate, according to clinical psychologist Claudi Bockting of the University of Groningen. ‘It causes inflation of the concept of depression.’

Claudi Bockting
Claudi Bockting

None of the New Year’s resolutions have been kept, the next holiday is still far in the future, the days are dark and dreary, and to top it all it’s the first day of the working week. These are the reasons why the third Monday in January is so depressing, according to Blue Monday’s originator. Bockting: ‘I can understand people not feeling up to the coming week or even to the new year. To feel that way for a few days even seems like a healthy idea to me. It comes with the territory and a slight downturn can even lead to something very positive, such as people learning to set themselves goals that are a bit more realistic.’

Impossible to deal with by yourself

‘The danger of hyping Blue Monday is that it creates the impression that all that someone who is depressed needs to do is pick themselves up by the bootstraps. That’s really underestimating what depression is’, Bockting feels. ‘If you feel blue, this is easily remedied by a good workout, or by dealing with the problem at hand, instead of worrying about it. Depression is something different – it’s almost impossible to deal with by yourself. Most people prove incapable of doing so.’

Constantly sombre

Depressed individuals don’t simply feel a bit more sombre for a while when they discover that their expectations haven’t been met, says Bockting. ‘They feel sombre constantly, or even lack feelings, making it impossible for them to function. Their mood is so fraught that they can no longer eat or sleep and they become extremely irritable. It can ultimately lead to not being able to work fully or care for your children properly. This is a completely different kettle of fish than coming to the realization, sometime after New Year’s Day, that your resolutions were a bit too optimistic.’

Confrontational

People who are depressed usually have a more difficult time around Christmas and New Year. ‘These are holidays that focus on getting together and having a good time. If you are unable to feel good under such circumstances it can be quite confronting.’ People also tend to take stock in the new year – what have I done and where am I headed? Bockting: ‘If you do so while you’re convinced that you’re not doing well, this can magnify the sombreness. People suffering depression often view life as one long experience of failure. They feel that they’re inadequate in every area life has to offer. These sorts of messages can give them the feeling that it’s their own fault they’re not able to deal with their depression, or that of course they’ll never get over it. This raises the barrier to seeking help even more.’ This is most certainly the case if people in their environment consider depression to be no more than a black mood.

Healthcare cut to the bone

Getting help is becoming increasingly difficult, according to Bockting. There are lots of budget cuts in the offing and Dutch mental healthcare will have EUR 600 million less to spend. Some patients will no longer receive adequate care as result. ‘Depression is ubiquitous and can happen to anyone. However, it is far from certain that someone becoming depressed in the coming year will receive the best possible care. Healthcare is being cut to the bone.’

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Claudi Bockting (1969, Silvolde) studied psychology at the University of Amsterdam and now works as an associate professor in clinical psychology at the University of Groningen. Her research concentrates on psychological intervention methods for chronic and recurring disorders, including interventions that reduce the chances of depression relapses (see www.doorbreek-depressie.nl ). She also works as a clinical psychologist for a mental healthcare institution.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.10 p.m.

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