Brainduck’s Weblog
Psychology geek tries to explain a few things.

Blue Monday, ‘Green Communications’

Blue Monday. Have you heard of the idea? Popular story goes something like this. Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University came up with a Clever Mathematical Formula to find the Most Miserable Day of the Year. Various charities have used this to raise funds and public awareness of mental health, helpfully aided by a lovely PR company doing this out of the goodness of their heart.

Problem is, none of that is actually true. The formula itself was entirely fabricated by a PR company, for no better reason than to sell holidays.

So who is Cliff Arnall? Well, he is approximately as qualified as I am to speak on mental health with any scientific authority, which is to say none at all. His rather strange website lists his qualifications as a 2:1 & Masters in Research Methods from Reading uni, alongside such wonderful things as a pop quiz for self-diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, containing items such as ‘good looking?’ – I’m fairly sure that’s not in the DSM or ICD. I’m really quite disappointed with the level of media fact checking on this one, even Bad Science has called him ‘Dr’ quite regularly. He’s also nothing to do with Cardiff uni’s excellent Psychology department, except for having taught a few evening classes in the building & in other places around Wales on what appear to be standard A level psychology topics.

Cliff Arnall does something explicitly forbidden by the British Psychological Society when he lists ‘Member of the BPS’ amongst his qualifications. However, he’s a ‘Member of the Delphinium Society UK’, which obviously makes him an excellent person to trust with your sanity.

Green Communications, headed by Mr Andy Green, is the PR company who have been pushing ‘Blue Monday’ for the last few years, since the PR agency who originally made up the formula to sell ice-cream dropped it. Following an argument with Andy Green in the comments of, and several other blogs where he was unprofessionally rude, I was invited to meet at the offices of Green Communications in Wakefield. Why an expert in ‘crisis communications’ and ‘social media’ would only talk if someone physically turned up to their meatspace office I am not certain, but then Andy Green also appears to be responsible for ‘the most incompetent wikipedia edit ever‘.

You can download the interview as an MP3 file from here.

I’m not planning to take over from Jeremy Paxman any time soon, it’s the first time I’ve interviewed someone (never mind an experienced PR professional), and the unedited version is a bit over an hour and somewhat rambling. Feel free to skip the first ten minutes, it’s pretty much Mr Green introducing himself, but it does get more interesting further in. Particular highlights include finding that the only money Green Comms knows they have raised is from their own office party, where everyone was made to wear blue hawaiian lei, and an admission that there isn’t any level of research evidence which would stop Green running the story.

Other bloggers have been doing a very good job of covering ‘Blue Monday’ for several years – I’d particularly recommend Dr Petra (who was legally threatened by Cliff Arnall over her coverage of this), Mind Hacks, Irregular Shed on the nonsense maths, and of course Bad Science.

Note that the interview is from Febuary last year – this year’s nonsense from Green Communications is disappointingly unchanged, despite what Mr Green suggested in the interview. Green Comms have also used ridiculous quotes from Cliff Arnall to promote their new PR campaign, Twixtmas:

‘If you are a regular whinger or moaner about the weather or minor ailments STOP!  It is boring and you are boring.  Other people do not care about your latest skin disorder.  If you have ‘got the flu’ and you are standing up telling someone else: you haven’t got flu.  Stop moaning.’ ‘If you’re feeling brave turn to your friends or family, look them in the eye (either one) as sincerely as you can and say:  “You know, I’m OK as I am”.  If they start laughing say: “Thank you for listening you are a beautiful person”‘.

This is particularly disappointing since I emailed Andy Green in early December, when he was asking for suggestions about ‘Twixtmas’, pointing out that the Cliff Arnall quotes already on the site were utter nonsense.

364 days ’till Blue Monday 2011. I’m already slightly down in the dumps just thinking about it.

5 Responses to “Blue Monday, ‘Green Communications’”

  1. Dear Brainduck
    I hope you are well.
    I am writing to set the record straight on some of the points you make.
    We have met and I thought you a kind, decent human-being, and in your day job seemingly doing some valuable work for a good cause.
    Can I really suggest it is time to move on here.
    You make references to me being ‘unprofessionally rude’ which is never my intention – and if inadvertently have been rude, my apologies to anyone offended.
    You make comment about my only wanting to talk in my ‘meatspace’ office. This is not true. Like the Martini ad I will speak any time, any place anywhere. One issue I do have with social media is for the relative anonimity it provides can lead to extreme posturing. Hence, receptive to any face to face public meetings.
    It really is a bit rich to criticise the limited fund raising success of Blue Monday when a highly influential group of people in the psychotherapy netwrok have used their influence and connections to stymie potential activity with major charities.
    I wish I could have been at the Gloom Aid event at the O2 in Islington on Monday rasing funds for the Depression Alliance. The fact is there could be dozens of such events, but thanks to this heavy intervention, the full fund-raising potential of Blue Monday has been restrained.
    It is a shame that supporters of Darwin have not recognised the evolution of this meme; Cliff Arnall first devised the formula. We came along later, dubbed the concept Blue Monday with the day being the symbolic ‘worst day of the year’ in an effort to create a socially useful meme, to raise awareness of serious issues and raise funds for good causes.
    It appears we have stumbled across a zeitgeist where there is as yet, an unquantified, yet discernable mood, perhaps influenced by modern creations of credit card bills, monthly paychecks, along with deeper seated seasonal issues.
    It is an interesting debate on intuitive knowledge v data and also about the wider problems of communicating science. I would be interested in doing some event, debate on this issue, to extend understanding of the issues facing our community on real issues like global warming, opposition to stem cell research, gentic foods and so on.
    So please, let’s not get personal, recognise that difference of opinion is not necessarily an argument, and maybe move on. Life is too short.

  2. Mr Green,

    Seriously, please do not continue to use Cliff Arnall for quotes. I emailed you about this in December, when you asked for suggestions about the Twixtmas campaign. Mr Arnall may be well-intentioned, but he’s not a suitable person to be giving advice on mental health. I’d suggest going through the British Psychological Society if you’d like to contact a qualified psychologist with media training (

    Small note: none of the bloggers you complain about are involved in psychotherapy.

  3. Brainduck, are you still writing at all? You make the psych writing on my blog look completely half-assed. But obviously this blog only goes to the beginning of 2010. I’d love to read whatever it is you’re currently tending to.

    Also, Andy Green: creating a “socially useful meme” and “lying for profit” are actually two entirely separate things.

  4. […] If you want to see a real ding dong going on about the qualification of Mr Arnall then pop over to: Brainduck’s Blog – […]

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