Despite being entirely fictional, The Onion offer some of the most perceptive political analysis anywhere.
Less well known, but likewise brilliant, is its coverage of mental health. The Onion‘s approach is to satirize the beliefs and perceptions that characterize psychiatric illness. The result is hilarious, but also insightful and, in a weird way, empathetic:
Despite years of intense dieting and vigorous exercise, local anorexic Lisa Kimmel is still way too fat, it was reported Monday… Though Kimmel could stand to lose a few pounds in nearly every area of her body, worst of all are her arms. “I’ve got this totally disgusting flab on the back of my arms that swings back and forth when I move,” said Kimmel, wearing an oversized Champion sweatshirt to conceal her obesity. “My arms totally look like my grandmother’s.”
Making matters worse is the fact that Kimmel’s mother wants her to be overweight, constantly trying to get her to eat fatty foods like ravioli, mashed potatoes and broiled chicken with the skin still on. Other family members, as well as Kimmel’s friends and doctors, also entreat her to eat because they want her to be fat, repulsive and unliked.
At a press conference Monday, Peter Cafazzo, CEO of Brunley-Hunt Pharmaceuticals (BHP), introduced his company’s latest anti-depressant, Cyntrex, a product he described as “a totally stupid waste of time that probably nobody will ever want ever.” …
According to reports, top BHP researchers began having doubts about the drug during the early development stages, when they realized they couldn’t do anything right ever ever ever, and that none of the pharmaceutical-industry leaders cared whether they lived or died. But work on the project continued, despite BHP’s growing conviction that Cyntrex would be the worst product in pharmaceutical history.
Panelists discuss ways to care for the nation’s paranoid schizophrenics, such as hiding cameras in their homes or audio transmitters in their ears. e.g. “We need to hide cameras everywhere they go, in the street, in their homes, in the eyes of people at the stores where they shop.”
Some people might see this as making fun of the mentally ill, but I don’t: it’s making fun of the illness.
Suffering from a psychiatric disorder is a tragedy, but the disorder itself, and the distorted cognitions associated with it are, well, ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to see yourself as fat when you’re dangerously underweight. It’s laughable to think you’re worthless when you’re successful and respected.
Coming to realize the absurdity of such beliefs is an important part of recovery, and an explicit goal of cognitive behavioural therapy although therapists don’t tend to emphasize the funny side, it is certainly there.