third Monday in January, what psychologist Cliff Arnall dubbed Blue Monday, is said to be the most
depressing day of the year, as the festive holiday season gives way to the
monotony of winter.
most of us, Blue Monday 2023 is now in the history books. For many Turks,
however, the blues are a daily occurrence.
is stuck in a financial and psychosocial rut that is testing the spirits of
even the most optimistic patriot. With a dire political and economic forecast,
this year is shaping up to be rough on Turks’ mental health.
Today, 9 percent of the
chronically depressed, and antidepressant consumption over the last five years has
surged by 56 percent, according to the Turkish
Ministry of Health. In 2017, 13 million psychological examinations were
whereas this was around 9.5 million in 2013. And then there are those suffering
in silence — only one in six people with mental
health needs in Turkey seek help.
exacerbated this crisis. While depression and anxiety has surged in many
countries since the pandemic began, Turkey has been among the hardest hit. A
2020 study in The Lancet medical journal found that Turkey had the
biggest spike in
COVID-related depression in all of Europe.
numbers paint an even more troubling picture. Gallup’s 2022 State of the
Global Workforce Report found that 66 percent of Turks feel stressed on a daily
basis, 43 percent are overly worried, 46 percent view themselves as angry, and
40 percent are perpetually sad.
where one-fifth of Turkey’s population lives, is in a league of its own when it
comes to mental health. The December 2022 Istanbul Barometer, published by the
city’s planning agency, estimated the average stress level of an Istanbulite
at 7.3 on a 10-point
of the survey’s participants blamed the economy for their malaise, as 47
percent said they couldn’t pay their monthly bills.
For most of us, Blue Monday 2023 is now in the history books. For many Turks, however, the blues are a daily occurrence.
The skyrocketing cost
of housing is
one of the main contributing factors. Urban home prices in Istanbul grew more
than 212 percent last year — the largest increase in 150 global cities
tracked by Knight Frank, a London-based real estate consultancy. Ankara came in second,
at 196 percent, and Izmir was third (185.8 percent). Number four on the list,
Miami, grew at a comparatively modest 28.6 percent.
of consumer goods is also hitting Turks’ hard. In November, a block of kasar cheese cost as much as a kilogram of red
Turkey’s 12-month consumer price index up more than 137
December, it is no wonder people are struggling.
the government has been compliant with the global mental health action plan launched by the World
Health Organization in 2013, it has failed to achieve key milestones. For
starters, Turkey has never adopted mental health legislation. A mental health
bill drafted in 2014 by the Psychiatric
Association of Turkey was still pending in 2022.
institutes and services that cater to emotional, psychological, and social
well-being are woefully understaffed. The number of employees in the mental health
100,000 people in Turkey is 16.33. Europe’s average is 43.5.
is a high cost in failing to address the mental health crisis. In 2018, the
Turkish Statistical Institute reported an average of nine suicides a
day in Turkey.
Although the institute has since stopped disclosing suicide
the assumption is that the numbers are not going down.
mental health also carries a financial burden. Depression has been identified
by the WHO as the leading cause of disability worldwide. Although it has not
been accounted for in Turkey, in the US, depression, which affects roughly 6
percent of the working population, accounts for $210 billion annually in medical costs and
Inflation of consumer goods is also hitting Turks’ hard. In November, a block of kasar cheese cost as much as a kilogram of red meat. With Turkey’s 12-month consumer price index up more than 137 percent in December, it is no wonder people are struggling.
Turks viewed last year as a disaster. When polled by market research firm
Ipsos, a staggering 83 percent said 2022 was a bad year for their
while 71 percent said Turkey is heading in the
yet, there is hope that sunnier days are coming. When asked by Ipsos if 2023
might be better than the year that just ended, 54 percent of Turks
will have to go right for Turkey if that optimism is to persist; improving
mental health services is a good place to start. The government needs a
sustainable and functional plan, and it must gather reliable data to act on it.
In a country where the political and economic spheres dictate daily life, there
needs to be a well-resourced mental health system to help those who fall on
are not always gloomy, but it is hard to blame those who are. The sooner the
government gets its house in order, the faster we can all put the bad days
Alexandra de Cramer is a journalist based in Istanbul. She
reported on the Arab Spring from Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for
Milliyet newspaper. Her work ranges from current affairs to culture, and
has been featured in Monocle, Courier Magazine, Maison Francaise, and Istanbul
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