Let’s continue our survey of the top 10 things you’d be crazy not to know about the mental problem.
6 It’s OK to laugh!
While lunacy is ultimately a climate change issue, it does differ from global warming in one big way: you’re allowed to laugh about it, says CN’s Professor Stephan Lewandowsky [pictured].
“Every culture known to historians has enjoyed a chuckle at the expense of the less-hinged,” according to Professor Ian Hickie of Australia’s Brain and Mind Institute [BMI]. “This seems to be hardwired; we couldn’t outgrow it if we wanted to, which of course we don’t.”
And nobody laughs harder than nutjobs themselves, who are the first to dissolve into giggles at a good joke—often anticipating the punchline by one or two sentences.
“We always appreciate comedy, provided it makes sense without being hurtful, yet contains a broader point about the foibles of contemporary society,” explained a drooling maniac who agreed to rant at us in Sydney’s Northside Clinic. “Then again, another equally valid comic tradition revolves around reframing—in an exaggerated or surprising way—some moral intuition of the time and culture in which the routine is performed.”
And if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point of going on?
“You might as well put your affairs in order, hop into a warm bath to stimulate peripheral blood flow and open your wrists with a razor blade (remembering to cut along the length of the arm, not crosswise—a classic beginner’s mistake),” to quote a patient information booklet distributed by the New South Wales Department of Health.
7 Immigrants are at risk.
We traveled to Sydney’s Southwest, where one cluster of suburbs is so rife with cray-cray that it’s nicknamed the Punchbowl district. It’s also an area of high immigration—and that’s no coincidence, say professional ethnographers.
In one hospital, we saw women with the erotomanic persecutory delusion that they’ll be ravished by strangers unless they conceal every inch of their bodies from view. On the emergency ward a man was angrily arguing with staff. From what I could make out with my limited Arabic, he seemed to be obsessed with the compass direction in which his bed was facing.
Administrators had set aside a room for the use of 20 or so patients laboring under the shared conviction, or folie à plusieurs, that they had to ululate and perform a downwards-dog manoeuvre five times a day. I asked one man what he thought would happen if he failed to carry out this ritual. He muttered something about his “soul” going to “hell,” though he couldn’t say where either of these was located.
The local religious centre does what it can. One enterprising imam runs a Friday activity club where hundreds of people with similar thought disorders find support from others going through the same thing. But he says he just doesn’t have the resources or training to give everyone in the area the help they need.
And yet some migrant populations in Australia not only seem to be immune to the kind of meshugaas that plagues Punchbowl, they even outperform the continent’s Anglo-Saxon indigenes on measures of psychic soundness, screw tightness and marble possession.
It’s a head-scratcher. In terms of country of origin, says Professor Lewandowsky, the big epicentres of mental disturbance are as diverse and seemingly random as Indonesia, Lebanon, southern (but not northern) Thailand, Pakistan (but not India), Muslim Bosno-Albania (but not Catholic Serbo-Croatia), the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iraq.
“Astute readers may notice,” continues Lewandowsky, “that these ‘hot spots’ have one and only one factor in common: they’re all war-ravaged nations with a long history of persecution by Israel, going all the way back to the Crusades, and to a lesser extent by the West.”
This observation has led ineluctably to the favorite hypothesis of alienists everywhere: that most people who lose their senses do so as a result of Judeoamerican Islamophobia.
8 The stigma can be worse than the disease.