The charity Samaritans have taken over what is known as ‘the most difficult day of the year’, fighting back with a good cuppa.

Jamie Bowman finds out about the simple plan for creating a positive domino effect...

THE fun and festivities of the holiday season have faded, purse strings are tightened as pay day seems further away than usual and it’s usually raining or cold. Or both.

Given all this it’s hardly surprising that the third Monday in January has become infamous as one of the most depressing days in the calendar, leading it to be dubbed Blue Monday after the famous New Order song.

Coined 13 years ago by Dr Cliff Arnall, Blue Monday is calculated according to specific measurements. These include the amount of time since Christmas, time since we probably failed New Year’s resolutions, low levels of motivation, weather, level of debt and the current ability to pay it off and the desire to take charge of the situation, which isn’t always possible.

Arguments continue to rage about whether there is any science behind the concept or if Blue Monday is simply a PR invention that has somehow stuck and become an annual event beloved of advertisers and anyone peddling self-help.

This year Samaritans are leading a fightback of sorts, with the new idea of ‘Brew Monday’, which encourages people to get together with friends, family and work mates, who may be lonely, for a cuppa and a chat.

The ‘takeover’ of Blue Monday, as they call it sees them combat ‘the most difficult day of the year’ while raising awareness of the service, with events across the country promoting the fact that the Samaritans’ helpline is free to call every day of the year.

Former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George, is among celebrities who are speaking out about loneliness in a specially produced film released by the charity.

Dr George, an A&E doctor from Carmarthen, said: “Moments like Brew Monday can help make us more aware of the need to reach out to people who might be feeling lonely.

“Offering a mug of the hot stuff, could possibly make all the difference. It’s like the domino effect - a chain reaction of positive events.”

BRIT Award nominated IDLES frontman, Joe Talbot, radio presenter Gemma Cairney and superstar poet and mental health campaigner Hussain Manawer, all join Dr Alex George in the video, which sees the stars build a trail of biscuits shaped like dominoes to illustrate how reaching out to someone could be the start of them feeling less lonely, and the beginning of a positive ‘domino effect’.

Dr George experienced feelings of loneliness as a student and credits a friend for listening to him.

He said: “In my fourth year of medical school, I went away on a placement to Truro in Cornwall. Being far away, I felt incredibly isolated, which led me to feel lonely and unhappy, but I was lucky to have a few friends out there with me.

“They noticed I was feeling down and went out of their way to talk to me about how I was feeling. Something as simple as someone listening, made a huge difference.”

It’s not all about biscuits though - there’s a serious side to Brew Monday, as loneliness is an issue that can affect everyone, including young people.

A report launched this week by Samaritans looked at the role loneliness can play in suicide risk.

Researchers spoke to 18 to 24-year-olds about their experiences of loneliness and suicidal feelings.

They found that loneliness played a significant role in young people’s suicidal thoughts, with many citing the stigma around loneliness as the main reason preventing them getting the help they needed.

Nineteen-year-old footballer Ruth Fox, who was part of the research said: “I have a strong network of people around me, but can often feel like I have absolutely no one to confide in.

“For me, the most valuable thing that can help on a day to day basis is people checking in on me, it makes me feel a lot less alone and like someone has got my back.”

Sarah Stone, Samaritans executive director for Wales added: “Days like Brew Monday can help raise awareness of loneliness as a national issue but, for too long, loneliness in young people has not been taken seriously. It’s time to put this right and listen to what they are telling us.

“We are pleased that the Welsh Government are developing a strategy to tackle loneliness and isolation in Wales and have outlined our views in our response to their consultation.

“It is crucial we invest in community infrastructure in Wales and make sure communities have better access to free community groups and networks.”

All over the UK and Ireland in communities and workplaces, people will be getting their mugs out to support Brew Monday, whilst raising vital funds to support Samaritans’ life-saving work.

More than 150 railway stations events will take place, with volunteers talking to people about the service on their daily commute and across the rail industry, over 70 tea parties will be put on to join Brew Monday celebrations. Branches across Wales will be supporting the event at their local stations, including Rhyl and just across the border in Chester.

Transport for Wales’ community relations manager, Geraint Morgan added: “We are delighted to be supporting the Samaritans’ Brew Monday event by hosting activity at 13 stations across our network.

“With thousands of customers passing through our stations during the day, it will be an excellent opportunity to help raise awareness of the importance and benefits of being able to discuss any concerns with family, friends or with the Samaritans directly.”

Find out more about Brew Monday at