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Fighting Mid-Winter Blues

Fighting Mid-Winter Blues

IROQUOIS - It was a first-time event held on “Blue Monday,” to talk about the gloomy occasion, and depression in general.

Except that Blue Monday is a myth, Canadian Mental Health Association Champlain East mental health promoter Angele D’Alessio told the gathering at Seaway District High School in Iroquois.

“The third Monday of January is Blue Monday, which is said to be the most depressing day of the year,” D’Allesio said at a Mental Health Matters Community Forum, held in front of about 75 people in the school’s cafeteria. “But it’s actually considered to be a myth – this claim has no scientific basis.”

D’Allesio explained Blue Monday has roots dating back to 2005, a concept pushed by social media, but in reality was a marketing ploy to try and boost sales for the travel industry.

“Blue Monday spiralled into something that is bigger than it really is,” she said.

The day was picked for some pretty good reasons, the obvious one being Monday. It’s also cold and dark, people are dealing with post-holiday debt and many have had already unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions.

So while Blue Monday isn’t real, D’Allesio said, the “January Blues” or “Winter Blues” certainly are.

“It’s a feeling of depression, deep unhappiness,” she said.

There are plenty of ways to battle it, though, with D’Allesio highlighting numerous CMHA endorsed approaches, including, of course, getting lots of exercise.

“Things like exercise that are good for your physical health are also good for your mental health,” D’Alessio said.

She mentioned other tips including keeping the blinds open at home to allow more light in, eating a healthy, balanced diet, watching a feelp-good film, baking a cake, visiting a neighbour, cooking dinner for a friend, decorating a wall at work, challenging someone to a game, or having a joke-telling contest.

“Laughter is the best medicine, laughter increases endorphins,” she said.

D’Allesio could only smile at the size of the gathering in the community in South Dundas.

“I’m very pleased,” she said, later telling the crowd, “it’s nice to see all of you come out in big numbers on a very, very cold evening.”

D’Allesio said the event was a way for the CMHA to deliver a message of hope and understanding around the “January Blues,” including by providing information on mental health, mental illness and stigma.

The event had an information session, and included tips on how to get involved in the upcoming Bell Let’s Talk program, which on Jan. 31 will see the company donate five cents for each tweet, text, snapchat, Facebook or long-distance call, and which raised $6.5 million for mental health research and programs last year.

“The key is to share the messaging so that we are reducing the stigma,” D’Allesio said.

Monday’s event also had testimonial stories of hope and recovery through a speaker panel, “real stories from real people who’ve overcome mental health challenges through hope and recovery,” D’Allesio said.

One speaker, 27-year-old Eric Lafleche, explained how his life has been turned around, despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 16.

“I’d have panic attacks and deep depression each day,” Lafleche said. “There would be a mania phase followed by deep depression. . . all I could think of were ways I could end my life.”

Lafleche noted how he had been hospitalized 13 times over the years, but with the help of mental health professionals – with moral support and medications — and perseverance, he “finally found a life worth living.”

These days, Lafleche said, he and his girlfriend are planning marriage and a life together and having a family, and he said he operates a successful business.

“I pulled through, and I’m so grateful for the support I got,” he said.

D’Allesio called all the speakers “brave” for sharing their stories and said “although you’ve all struggled, you’ve all had many successes.”

D’Allesio during her presentation noted that there are currently about 300 diagnosable mental health issues.

“The key message really is that recovery from mental health issues is absolutely possible,” she said.