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Editor's blog 19th January 2009: Unhappy about Blue Monday, and personal budgets deferred

I am officially not happy about Blue Monday.

Not the New Order song, which I like very much. No, the media bullshit Blue Monday.

According to BBC News in 2005, the most depressing day of the year is 24th January. They cited "Dr Cliff Arnalls" - but mis-spelled his surname, which is Arnall. A minor error - I'm a typo monarch myself.

According to The Independent in 2007, the most depressing day of the year is the Monday of the last full week in January.

According to BBC News in 2009, it looks like it's a week early. Note in the film how the NHS is dropping off as a source of worry. Most of today's national media outlets have also gone with this.

Journalists and editors: lazy or just stupid?
Are journalists and editors stupid, incapable of reading a calendar, or is there another explanation?

You will not be surprised to hear that there is. The Blessed Dr Ben Goldacre (www.badscience.net and The Guardian columnist) skewered the proponent of the equation calculating this in 2006.

The triumph of PR
This story tells you all you need to know abut the triumph of PR in an uncritical media. Goldacre reveals that PR agency Porter Novelli delivered the press release about Blue Monday, on behalf of their clients Sky Travel, for signature to various media-friendly (ahem) academics. Brilliantly, Arnall has also calulated that there is a 'happiest day of the year'.

Sadly, the Mental Health Foundation are now on board with this bollocks.  We do learn that Cliff Arnall has gone from being part-time (in the first BBC News report) at Cardiff University to now being a former employee.

The MHF press release tells us that "‘Beat Blue Monday’ is an award-winning campaign developed by the Flexible Thinking Forum, a not-for-profit organisation promoting flexible and creative thinking skills in business and the community, to encourage people to challenge set ways of thinking, with the support of its public relations agency GREEN communications."

The Flexible Thinking Forum is a "not for profit social enterprise" set up by one Andy Green to flog his books. Its declared sponsors include the aforementioned PR agency Green communications and Creativity@work, half of whose personnel is ... Andy Green! The Flexible Thinking Forum's links go to the aforementioned PR agency Green communications - and also to Andy Greens (sic) creativity blog, which pushes his books and, brilliantly, reveals in his biog that among his clients for events are - you guessed it, the Department of Health.

For a creativity expert, this is not the most creative blog. I admit to missing some days here and there on HPI, but this creativity guru's blog has a grand total of two posts. Both trying to flog his book. Five people voted in his online poll. On Facebook, his 'make stupidity history' group has 38 members. It looks as if stupidity may be with us for a while yet.

So that's Andy Green, creativity guru. What about Cliff Arnall? Well, according to the author of the very amusing Irregular Shed, Arnall is not  a part-time professor of doctor of psychology, but "rather a part-time tutor who ran an evening class in relaxation at a night school that happened to be in Cardiff University buildings, common-or-garden Mr Cliff Arnall". You can find an archive of Irregular Shed's original 2005 debunking of Arnall here.

And if you feel you'd really like to hire Cliff Arnall, you can find him here, where his resume lists his qualifications as:
BSc IIi Psychology (1987) University of Reading, U.K.
MSc Research Methods (1989) University of Reading, U.K.
Member of the British Society of  Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (since 1987)
Member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) (since 1986)
Private Pilot PPL(A) JAA-FCL (2004)
Member of The Delphinium Society, UK

Arnall's website also poses itself the question "Do you have regular contact with negative whingeing moaning people?" If you answer 'No', it says "Congratulations!"

But if you answer 'Yes', Arnall admonishes you, "What are you doing!!!! Remove them immediately. They are toxic. They sap your energy and your fun. If necessary leave a partner or a job. Life is about being true to yourself - to your heart and your mind. Stop putting up with crap people. Surround yourself with people who like you or love for who you are. And then you can stop being a fake".

Enough said. I am out of time to write about personal budgets, but the impressive Dr Grumble has a good entry and a thoughtful comment from The Jobbing Doctor, who blogs at http://thejobbingdoctor.blogspot.com. I shall come on to the subject soon.