Tag Archives: psychology

Mad About Mental Issues: Part 2

Let’s continue our survey of the top 10 things you’d be crazy not to know about our growing mental problem.

6 It’s OK to laugh!

While lunacy is ultimately a climate change issue, it does differ from global warming in one important way: you’re allowed to laugh about it, according to CN’s Professor Stephan Lewandowsky [pictured].

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Spokespersons for the mad rights movement couldn’t agree more. They’re no killjoys, they say—and the last thing they’d want to do is take the humor out of the subject.

“Every culture in history has enjoyed a chuckle at the expense of the less-hinged,” explains 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. (And if they have the awkward habit of anticipating the punchline by one or two sentences, all the merrier!)

“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,” he continued as we backed away slowly, “another equally valid comic tradition entails the reframing—in an exaggerated or surprising way—of 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 living?

“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 it’s officially known as the District of Punchbowl.

It’s also an area of high immigration—and that’s no coincidence, say professional ethnographers.

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At the area hospital we met women suffering from the erotomanic persecutory delusion that they’d be ravished by strangers unless they concealed every inch of their bodies from view.

In 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 who labored under the shared conviction, or folie à plusieurs, that they needed 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 has set up 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.

Meanwhile, though, some of Australia’s migrant populations not only seem to be immune to the kind of meshugaas that plagues Punchbowl, they actually outperform the country’s Anglo-Saxon indigenes on measures of psychic soundness, screw tightness and marble possession.

It’s a veritable head-scratcher. In terms of country of origin, says Professor Lewandowsky, the major 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 all happen to be 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 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.

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We’ve got Mental Illness Awareness Madness!

Part 1

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.

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Credibility: Stephan Lewandowsky, the Americo-Australian cognician now based in England, generously sacrificed his time and reputation to act as a consultant to this article series.

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.

Derangement: Professor Lewandowsky used to think it was something that happened to other people.

3 We need to have a conversation.

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Why is it so hard to have a panicked, hysterical conversation about climate change?

As a science communicator my job involves taking the emotional temperature of the climate community—something we can measure on well-known, well-validated anxiety scales. I’m often surprised by the disconnect between scientists and the public.

To say the scientists were worried would be old news—and an understatement. When we first asked them in the mid-90s, most climatologists were already Worried or Very Worried, with fewer than 30% claiming to be Not Concerned about climate change.

But then, in a Nature editorial in 2010, Professor Paul Ehrlich mentioned that “[e]veryone is scared shitless.” Such a comment might have been dismissed as hyperbole coming from anyone else, but we all knew Ehrlich’s reputation. You don’t become the world’s most respected ecologist if you’re in the habit of being wrong about shit.

We tested the scientists again. Guess what?

The “Unconcerned” scientists now made up a tiny 3%.

Meanwhile, the entire mainstream had become Worried or higher.

22% of climate scientists today are Very Worried, 28% are Scared Shitless and a whopping 15% are now Shitting Themselves. In this top category the median scientist has involuntarily shat him- or herself eleven times in the last 30 days.

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Climate Thought for the Day

with Professor Stephan Lewandowsky
University of Bristol, Bristol

Climate change is real.

Now.

Climate change is happening.

Now.

It may even be happening near you.

Someone you know may already have experienced it.

It could be anyone. A lecturer in your faculty. A lecturer in another faculty. That loner who sits in the back row at your Greenpeace chapter meetings. An associate lecturer.

Literally anyone.

Talk to them. More importantly, listen to them, and be a shoulder to cry on.

They will seem irrational, they will be in denial and they will take their anger out on you. Try not to take it personally! These are just normal stages in the process of healing from climate trauma.

Above all, resist the natural desire to suggest cheap, easy solutions. There are none, and it can be very offensive to propose them.

And for god’s sake, never tell a sufferer to “man up” and “try to adapt.”

Just be there. That’s what climate-change survivors need.


AUTHOR DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

Stevan ‘Stephe’ Lewandowsky is the Chair in Theoretical Conspiracism at the University of Bristol, UK.

He does not work; own equity in any institution whose reputation has benefited from the publication of this article; or consult for.

As a psychologist, he has no direct experience with mental health.

This article is not a substitute for a mental illness support community like ThisWayUp, MoodGym or ShapingTomorrowsWorld.