With the passing of January also comes the passing of the supposed “most depressing day of the year” – Blue Monday.
The idea of Blue Monday, this year celebrated on January 16, was first publicised in 2005 as part of a press release from a holiday company, which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation.
Since then, the day has become an annual free-for-all for light-hearted news articles on how to beat the January blues.
From May 2016: Kingston Samaritans' £65,000 quest for a new home
The equation used to calculate the date, always the third Monday of January, using “debt", "motivation", "weather", "need to take action” and so on is itself subject to much derision.
Even its psychologist creator Cliff Arnall has rejected the notion of Blue Monday.
But the reality for those struggling with mental health issues and depression, the challenges of the New Year and the burdens it brings are more real than media trivialisation.
A number of non-suspicious deaths were reported at train stations across south London, with four people having been killed on railway lines in just four days.
Emergency services attend to a train death in south west London
A 47-year-old man from Surbiton was hit and killed by a train at a level crossing in Littleheath Lane, Oxshott on January 26.
Just five days later, two people were hit and killed by trains within 15 minutes of each other at New Malden and Woking railway stations respectively. It was a 36-year-old man from London who was killed at New Malden station.
A 44-year-old woman from Blackpool was also killed when she was hit by a train at East Croydon railway station on February 2.
All the incidents will be subject to inquest proceedings to determine an official cause of death, though the tragedies have highlighted the significant challenges faced by authorities in preventing such instances.
A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “We do a huge amount of work to prevent people from taking their own lives on the railways and have a dedicated Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Team.
“Suicide is often the end point of a complex history of risk factors and distressing events. Most people who choose to end their lives do so for complex reasons.
“We work with our partners to protect vulnerable people and try to prevent them from taking their life.”
In December last year, a group of MPs said the number of people in England taking their own lives to be “unacceptably high”.
A report by the Health Select Committee found that the number of deaths by was 4,820 in England in 2015, part of a UK-wide figure of 6,188.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the committee's chair, said: "4,820 people are recorded as having died by suicide in England last year, but the true figure is likely to be higher.
"Suicide is preventable and much more can and should be done to support those at risk."
One mother who gave evidence told the committee it was the services which were “hard to reach” rather than her son’s reluctance for help before his suicide.
MP James Berry speaks to workers from Kingston Samaritans
Ruth Sutherland, the chief executive of mental health charity the Samaritans, called the report a “wake-up call” for the Government, highlighting that the charity is contacted every six seconds by someone in need of help.
Mental health experts have also criticised the stigma of mental health and its representation in the media, including Blue Monday.
For example, mental health charity the Blurt foundation has criticised the day as potentially “downplaying” the problem.
On the contrary, The NHS Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group viewed Blue Monday as an opportunity to try and raise awareness of the problem.
It worked with a number of organisations to offer support and counselling, funding a service to help people take control and improve their own mental health and wellbeing.
With about 120 volunteers, Kingston Samaritans is the biggest branch in Greater London outside the capital’s centre, and works on the frontline of helping those living with depression.
The charity recently opened a new building in the town centre, transforming a disused building at the junction of Wheatfield Way and Palmer Crescent into a specifically catered centre.
Meanwhile the Samaritans are working with Network Rail to reach out to those most at risk of train related deaths, including offering support at some stations.
Kingston MP James Berry said: “It is now being spoken about more commonly, but we do have in Kingston unfortunately some high profile places where people tend to try and take their lives.
“It’s really important that the Samaritans have a presence and a base - they need somewhere where people can feel safe.”
- If you are experiencing problems with your mental health, visit your GP. Samaritans lends a confidential ear to those in distress; call 116 123