From Blue Monday to Brew Monday, mental health continues to dominate the agenda

Today marks blue Monday, said to be the most depressing date in the calendar, as variables including weather conditions, debt, the end of Christmas, failed New Year’s resolutions and low motivation levels converge in a perfect storm of gloom. But now the man who coined Blue Monday has apologised, saying that the day was never meant to be about sadness, but instead an encouragement to people to focus on new beginnings and possibilities ahead.

And indeed, perhaps he has had his wish – for a wide variety of organisations and people are now taking it upon themselves to subvert the Blue Monday sadness. For example, Samaritans, the mental health charity with whom I volunteer, have launched Brew Monday, a fundraising event focussed on having a good chat alongside a cuppa.

This takes place in a context in which mental health is becoming significantly more prominent in the national discourse. And we’ve seen in our proprietary research that it is particularly salient with millennials, who acknowledge its importance and are much more aware than previous generations of the importance of talking and sharing feelings as a vital preventative measure, and at the acute end of mental health crises too. Indeed, according to Samaritans, potentially 6 lives are saved on the railway for every 1 life lost, just through small talk.

Millennials in particular welcome this new prominence of mental health in public discourse, bring such an important issue to the national agenda. And this really is seen to be the work of charities, with the likes of the Time to Change campaign and Heads Together standing out. But there’s also wide recognition that talking alone isn’t enough, and a belief that mental health care in the UK remains insufficient.

This may present an opportunity for charities. We’ve seen in our research that charities are increasingly seen as part of “the establishment”: some perceive them not to be doing enough to stand on the side of “the people”. The advocacy role of pressurising the government to do more or change policy is little known, but we frequently hear demands for it to be better communicated. To know that charities are influencing government to invest more in such important areas has huge power whenever we discuss it.

Of course the situation is complicated, with charities often relying on government contracts and grants. But there is certainly permission from the the public – especially from those of a left-leaning persusasion fearful about services being cut – for mental health charities to take a more assertive line in standing up for service users and demanding investment.

This could be a very powerful public role – alongside continuing to encourage the public to open up – as the UK continues to wake up to the importance of mental health. For now though, I’d encourage everyone to put the kettle on and have a tea and a chat: here’s to Brew Monday.

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