September 29, 2020

BY ALLANAH PINHORN

The storm has been weathered: Conestoga College students and faculty survived the so-called most depressing day of the year. Known as Blue Monday, it allegedly occurs on the Monday of the last full week of January, according to Cliff Arnall, a former tutor at Cardiff University in Wales. However, many consider it to be mostly hot air, scientifically.

Pseudoscience or not, it’s no surprise it falls in the middle of a bleak and often blustery month. With Christmas over, New Year’s resolutions failed and many more months of frigid weather left ahead, depression can hit hard in the winter.

This year Blue Monday was Jan. 21, and was marked at Conestoga by the Blue 2013 campaign, which sought to bring awareness to mental health.

Ciara Byrne, CSI’s president, wanted to bring some colour to the dark day and lift spirits on campus as part of Mental Health Awareness Week that took place across Ontario post-secondary school campuses.

“We want to try to get students to talk about it,” Byrne said. “What makes them blue.”

It’s an awareness that’s needed, as mood disorders and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are very real illnesses that can dampen a student’s lust for school, family and life in general. According to Statistics Canada, between five and eight per cent of the population over the age of 15 showed some symptoms of depression or anxiety. Furthermore, the typical college-aged person, aged 15-24, is more likely to experience a mental health disorder than any other age group.

There is still a major stigma attached to talking about depression or other mental health issues, and only 50 per cent of Canadians say they would admit to suffering from one, when asked if they would tell friends or family.

Byrne knows trying to cope with depression while in school can be an overwhelming thing for students and wants to tear down the barriers surrounding it. She hopes to do this in part by using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to create a viral campaign, but more importantly by hosting events at the college.

“Little by little, break the stigma,” was her motto on Jan. 21.

Events during Blue Monday included a free lunch and renowned guest speaker, New York playwright and actor, Josh Rivedal, make-your-own stress balls in E-wing, free self-serve prints in CSI and puppy therapy, hosted by the St. John Ambulance Dog Therapy program.

“It really makes a difference,” said Phyllis Schnider, the co-ordinator of the K-W therapy dog program, speaking of the benefits of time spent with pets.

Schnider said the benefits of simply being around a passive dog include low blood pressure, a drop in stress levels and relief of depression and pain.

“The response has been so amazing,” she said.