Words matter. Today, the third Monday in January, has been dubbed ‘Blue Monday’ following some questionable research some years ago that claimed to have found a formula to identify the gloomiest day of the year.
Whatever, the source, Blue Monday does provide an opportunity to reflect on how we think and act about depression and other mental health issues.
That is why I have joined with Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Mersey Care chief executive Joe Rafferty to ask people today to think about how the catchy tune Sweet but Psycho by Ava Max has made it to the top of the charts for the past few weeks.
And it is why the three of us are supporting the launch of this year’s Big Brew Campaign which uses the power of the Great British cuppa to get people together and help save lives. You can read more about the Big Brew Campaign by clicking here.
The track may have potential lethal and heart-breaking consequences for young people and families across the country.
Of course, it’s just a pop song but there’s another, darker side to the track.
How we use language and imagery helps to shape the way we think. Promoting language like ‘psycho’ in this context normalises the idea that people with mental health issues are dangerous.
The lyrics and video – which features scenes of irrational violence and threat that involves a baseball bat, darts and knives – casually underline negative perceptions of mental health.
In short, it helps stigmatise the experience of mental illness and could create a barrier to people seeking early help. At its worst, stigma can stop suicidal people from reaching out when they are at their lowest, most vulnerable point.
So, let’s use the opportunity of Blue Monday and this song topping the charts to renew the continuing debate about how we discuss mental health – and raise awareness of the detrimental use of negative language.
Steve, Joe and myself back the Zero Suicide Alliance and have each undertaken its free, short online training. Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the country. It takes 6,000 lives a year. If we can challenge the negative language and imagery that too often surrounds mental health, we can encourage people to open up, talk and help reduce the toll of suicide.
Together, we have been encouraging employers across the city region to offer the training to staff and many have already done so. Today, we can think, talk and act to make a difference.