It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? That special time of year has come and gone again! Did you enjoy your Mental Illness Awareness Week?
Here at Climate Nuremberg we’re nuts about MIAW, the annual opportunity to think about a non-climate-related, but nevertheless important, social issue.
Just because climate change is by far the worst problem society will ever face, doesn’t mean it’s the only one.
Unprecedented temperatures; carbon pollution; the daily toll of species going extinct in real time; oceans rapidly turning to acid; millions of climate refugees in limbo between homelands—these very real crises obviously demand attention.
But so does another tragedy, closer to home. In your own neighborhood are folks who believe in things that just don’t exist.
It’s all well and good to listen to what The Science is telling us about our warming globe. But did you know 1 in 40 Australians will experience hearing things?
As we weep uncontrollably for the loss of Pacific nation after Pacific nation to the onslaught of surging sea levels, spare a thought for people who get sad for no sensible reason.
As academics we can get so caught up in simply surviving the attacks of the oil-funded Subterranean War on Science that we forget about folks with even bigger problems. Folks who think imaginary forces are out to get them, for instance.
But all these people exist, they’re all our neighbors, and they’re all suffering the same problem. I’m referring—of course—to the problem of mental problems.
So, whether you fancy yourself a maven of meshuggenology or just an engaged citizen, here are the take-home points everyone needs to know about the growing mental crisis in our community.
1 Insanity is a rich tapestry.
Admit it: when you think of a mental patient you picture a crazy person, don’t you? But this stereotype is too simplistic, explains CN’s Stephan Lewandowsky. While craziness does remain the most common mental problem, there’s a broad gamut of others.
The crazy “only make up about 60% of the caseload at your local asylum,” says the Bristol-based Professor. “Doctors now recognize a whole range of deformities of the mind, from simple severe melancholia to relapsing-remitting batcrappery.
“You could almost write a book about all the diagnoses now in use,” he adds, slightly hyperbolically.
2 Going psycho: it will happen to you.
And if it doesn’t, say epidemiologists, it will happen to someone you know. According to a major recent study, 19% of Australians—that’s almost every fifth person—will take leave of their gourd at some point in their lives. That’s almost one in every five people.
3 We need to have a conversation.
A culture of embarrassment and euphemism surrounds the issues facing today’s lunatic community—and it isn’t helping anyone.
“Bedlamites (energumens, to use the medical term) have been begging us for years, over and over,” says Prof. Lewandowsky, “to just stop tiptoeing around the subject and confront it, frankly and honestly, for the love of God.
“As a professional you just have to block your ears and tune this kind of advice out. Remember, no matter how heart-rending their pleas, this is a deeply looney-tunes group of patients—some of whom have never even practiced psychology.
“But recent research, carried out by the mentally competent, has revealed an ironic twist: there might be some merit to such ravings after all.
“It seems our policy of avoiding the topic of bonkerness may actually be the last thing people need when they’ve gone gaga. Which means we’ll have to get comfortable talking openly and accurately about all things bananas.”
So if someone you know is up the pole, then say so, suggests the latest science!
“Same goes if they’re bipolar,” adds Lewandowsky. “Simply approach them and say: excuse me, but you appear to be up two poles. Is that something you’d like to talk about?”
As always, be mindful that the wrong language can trigger feelings of offendedness.
‘Madman,’ for instance, is an archaic term for persons of madness. Many consider it sexist, so it’s probably best avoided.
4 We’ve come a long way, baby.
In the medical world, alienism—the specialty that studies and treats the corybantic and otherwise ding-a-ling, and is better known as head-shrinkery—has something of a dark reputation, and deservedly so.
It wasn’t so long ago that our nation’s mental asylums served as de facto prisons for anyone who, for whatever reason, just didn’t fit in. And shrinks themselves were all too willing to lend the credibility of medical science—but none of its rigor—to popular prejudices about the differently-coherent. Unorthodox women could be incarcerated for ‘hysteria,’ while men could be sentenced to separation from their families for life on the pretext of so-called ‘shell shock.’
Lewandowsky, however, prefers to focus on the positive—on all the things we’ve learned since the ignorant old days of the 19th and early 20th centuries. (For starters, we now know that hysteria can affect both sexes, he says.)
“These days our approach to wacko patients is every bit as ‘scientific’ as, say, climatology. Insanity itself can be measured and treated quantitatively, using ksm as the base unit,” explains Lewandowsky, “which stands for kangaroos short of a mob.
“The Système International d’Unités actually keeps a standard kangaroo in a humidity-proof glass vault in Paris. So no matter what country you live in, you can be confident that nuttiness—or distance from your rocker—is calibrated against a shared reference point.”
5 There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Unlike most diseases, going hatstand is not your fault.
We all know that HIV is due to carelessly catching the AIDS virus; homosexuality, which is not a disease at all, is caused by liking people of the same gender; and the main risk factors for diabetis [singular: diabetus] are gluttony and sloth. By contrast, the human soul—uniquely among the body’s organs—tends to capsize unexpectedly, without rhyme or reason (no pun intended).
The afflicted often blame themselves, endlessly agonizing about what they could have done differently. While this is a perfectly normal human reaction, it’s also crazy talk.
“Don’t even open the blame door,” urges Lewandowsky.
“That way lies madness,” he adds, whistling and twirling an index finger circumtemporally.
On the rare occasion when doctors can pinpoint the etiology of multiple marble failure, it usually comes down to simple bad genes.
Scientists who study the British royal family have found that some of the gravest conditions of the human wits—diseases like Major-General Hecticness and chronic hat-wife confusion—are caused by an excess of so-called recessive (shy) genetic material.
The moral of the story, then?
“If you have to blame someone, blame your parents* and the society that allowed them to hook up,” as Lewandowsky puts it.
*Anecdotally, the environment may also play a minor catalytic rôle in faculty loss. (Most scientists, like climatologists, use the word environment to mean nature, but here it has exactly the opposite connotation.) There are reports, for instance, of individuals spazzing out when a spasticating factor—like stress or lack of sleep—exacerbates an underlying spasmoidal predisposition.