6 min readWhat is blue Monday and what can we do to help young minds combat these January blues?posted 15 days ago

What is blue Monday?

The concept of ‘Blue Monday’ is an actual myth. “According to reports from various online sources, Blue Monday originated with psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2005, when he came up with the concept as part of a marketing campaign for the now-defunct company Sky Travel.”

Source- https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324236

Considering this, however, it is a great opportunity to spread further awareness about mental health and overall wellbeing in January as so many things are currently affecting mental health as a nation in both children and adults. 

Current challenges

We have seen a considerable amount of hardship recently in respect of a financial crisis and concerns regarding fuel poverty and the recent Christmas period. Families are struggling more than ever and with this, we have seen a rise in mental health crisis, particularly in schools. We know that with these challenges comes additional parental issues regarding poverty, crisis, mental health issues, domestic abuse, and many other parental concerns that can of course have a detrimental impact on children and their development.

The month of January can bring an additional sense of dread including financial restraints in the recovery of Christmas, children and adults returning to work or school and having anxieties regarding this, and of course the dark days and cold weather.

People may find themselves conforming to the belief that January and ‘Blue Monday’ also makes for a difficult or challenging month and the pressure of new year’s resolutions and giving up everything that we might enjoy. It is so important that we take a self-aware and self-care approach rather than succumb to all of the pressures around us that we now have the ability to make us feel bad. Children and adults can be left comparing themselves to friends, family, colleagues, and even absolute strangers, which can have such an instrumental impact upon our self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. This can also include the fact that children are aware that their families are struggling financially, and they cannot afford things such as gaming credits, clothing or mobile phones etc. which can result in bullying and cyberbullying. The pressure can be immense within this time period.

Currently, we are seeing that the mental health of adults has been impacted significantly however we are also seeing some concerning statistics for children’s mental health. There are staggering and heightened waiting lists for child-related mental health therapies and interventions currently and many schools are having to invest in additional pastoral support to alleviate some of this risk.

Data from Young Minds https://www.youngminds.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/mental-health-statistics/ reported that:

  1. One in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017. That’s five children in every classroom.
  2. The number of A & E attendances by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition more than tripled between 2010 and 2018-19.
  3. 83% of young people with mental health needs agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse.
  4. In 2018-19, 24% of 17-year-olds reported having self-harmed in the previous year, and seven per cent reported having self-harmed with suicidal intent at some point in their lives. 16% reported high levels of psychological distress.
  5. Suicide was the leading cause of death for males and females aged between five to 34 in 2019.
  6. Nearly half of 17–19-year-olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder have self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point, rising to 52.7% for young women.

Young Minds also report that “One-third of mental health problems in adulthood are directly connected to an adverse childhood experience (ACE)” and “adults who experienced four or more adversities in their childhood are four times more likely to have low levels of mental well-being and life satisfaction.” These findings really do highlight the enormous impact that child abuse and child traumas have on the future for some children in later life. School staff are currently dealing with an entirety of these issues whilst trying to deliver education.

So, considering the above, let’s concentrate on some of the steps that can be taken to combat the ‘so called blues in January’ and to acknowledge that child mental health is a huge concern at present, we must try to consider what can support children to increase their wellbeing and reduce mental health concerns.

 

Routines and downtime

It is so important that children have some down time. We can often get caught up in the rush of life and when attending school and after clubs, having hobbies or seeing family it may be that the child would really enjoy a nice film on the sofa or some downtime alone in their bedroom on occasion.

Positive routines are also fundamental to creating structure and reducing anxiety for children. It is essential to prioritise routines to achieve good sleep, a healthy diet, and to prioritise some down time.  

Play and outdoor activities

It can be hard during the winter to get outside however there are some drier days that allow us to simply get outdoors and take a trip to the park, build something, have a picnic, or go on a local walk. When children can play away from technology it can stimulate their minds and the fresh air helps.

Being creative

Messy play or creative projects can be extremely stimulating for children. Enabling them to use their creative skills to make something, experiment, and express themselves. By being creative we can encourage a child’s interests and allow them to connect with others and themselves.

Understanding emotions and listening

Encouraging children to use emotional language can allow children to understand how they feel and what language they can use to explain this. This may also allow them to feel more able to express themselves rather than bottling things up or becoming frustrated when they are not sure how to explain. Children, just like adults need to be listened to at times, allow the child to know that they can come to you if needed. A child also needs to know that you will take what they say seriously and be there for them if they need it.

 

Further information and support services:

Young Minds: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/professional/

NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/childrens-mental-health/

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/supporting-others/childrens-mental-health/

MIND Charity: 0300 123 3393    https://www.mind.org.uk/

Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774    https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

PAPYRUS: 0800 068 4141     https://www.papyrus-uk.org/

CALM: 0800 58 58 58    https://www.thecalmzone.net/

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Rachael Bishop

Rachael Bishop

Rachael has over 18 years of experience, paired with an extensive training record within the safeguarding field.