Blue Monday is made up, but poverty and mental health arent.
Blue Monday; there are many things said about this day — one being that it is the saddest or most depressing day of the year. Some say it was actually created by a travel company to entice us to book holidays in the dark days of January, but there are a few things that do resonate with many of us, and it highlights that we cannot ignore.
The combination of dark nights and a long wait until payday can contribute to people struggling during January — and coupled with the additional pressures on our finances caused by the ongoing cost of living crisis — this ‘Blue Monday’ is an important time to talk about the facts around poverty and mental health, rather than the mythology.
Generally speaking, money and poor mental health are uncomfortable bedfellows. The state of our mental health can affect the way we handle our money and trigger impulsive financial decisions and having money worries can exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems.
A recent report by Christians Against Poverty found that the top reason their clients were experiencing a debt crisis was because of mental ill health, and a Centre for Mental Health study published earlier this year highlighted just how poverty harms our mental health. So, each can be a cause or a result of the other. Adverse childhood experiences and over-crowded housing, less access to green spaces and an increase in stress negatively impact our wellbeing and mental health.
From the beginning of creation we read in Genesis 2 about the provisions God makes for humanity that create and protect our wellbeing.. We read about the home that God created, perhaps showing the importance of homes -given he makes homes before he makes the inhabitants!
Eden is perfectly designed for human flourishing; things that were ‘pleasing to the eye and good for food’ (beauty and nutrition), that it is not good for man to be alone (community), purposeful work in naming and caring for the animals, and a safe space to connect with God where they walked freely with him.
And yet we are so far from the reality of Eden -and not just during the dark, cold days of January.
So what do we do, when the reality of Eden and the reality faced by those living in poverty and with mental ill-health are so far apart?
The first is to be honest about the gap. As churches we need to face the reality of poverty in our churches and communities.
Once we’ve accepted the reality; we can take action. This might look like engaging with Christians Against Poverty and partnering with them to help those affected by debt. It could also look like partnering with Kintsugi Hope to run Wellbeing Groups to help offer a safe and supportive space to find connection and support those in your community with their mental and emotional health -regardless of whether they’re affected by debt or not.
Secondly, we can make sure that we’re talking about issues of poverty and mental health in our church services. All too often we only teach about money from the perspective of tithing, injustice, or mention mental health in passing; but we don’t dedicate time in the pulpit talking about the intersection between the three, despite the Bible having a lot to say about how to care for those who are struggling.
And lastly, let’s create space in our worship for honesty with God, for people to bring the things they feel are unspeakable in church to God in prayer without having to feel they need to censor themselves or provide a neat and tidy ending to their stories. Lament is a gift given from God to his children to be honest about our trouble and be met in that place with the grace and comfort of God. An astounding 40% of the psalms are of lament — of people crying out to God to intervene in their situation.
We see this beautifully in Psalm 6:4–6 proclaims:
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.”
On this Blue Monday, let this be an invitation to be as honest with God as this Psalmist who holds together their knowledge of God’s love and their desperation together in prayer, hoping against hope that they will see a change.
We have a God who meets us in our distress, in our poverty and our struggles with mental health; he invites our honesty and reveals himself as ‘Immanuel’ — God with us.
And if you are struggling with managing your finances or looking for support with your mental or emotional wellbeing, do consider visiting either of these websites to see how either Christians Against Poverty or Kintsugi Hope may be of help at this time.
 CAP Report