elomaran: (Bipolar)
You can have lots of fun with the insane. For example, there's the website paraplush.com, where as a game, you can cure mentally ill cuddly toys. There's a depressive tortoise, an autistic hippo, a sheep with multiple personality disorder or a paranoid crocodile. In nice flash animations you can psychoanalyse the patient, drug it, do therapy with it, and in the end, watch it walk into the light. That's all very nice, very sweet, made with love, and it's fun to play. But is it good? No. It isn't.

The problem is not that it makes mentally illnesses into game content - if you ask me, you need to be able to laugh about everything, and I don't mind if it's about diseases that may lead to murder or suicide. The cuddly patients are not exposed, taken surprisingly serious and mostly cause compassion within the players. Only reluctantly you let the pet undergo the torture of electroshocks, as helpful as they may be, or inject them with bad anti-psychotics that instantly make them hallucinate. And when it's over, you know the cause of the disorder and the poor creature is cured, you're all happy and relieved.

But that's just the point. The game advocates the popular belief that all mental diseases origin from some traumatic experience and are, once that's worked out, curable. I once had a psychologist who was just like that, tried to blame everything on my mother who had obviously not given me enough love as a kid. But truth is, most mental illnesses have a genetic component and come with a disorder of brain metabolism. They are not conceited, no overreaction on a horrible experience, they are diseases. Just like diabetes, parkinson's, mucoviscidosis: There's something wrong with the patient, physically and not only mentally.

Wouldn't it be lovely if common belief were true! Just one session of psychoanalysis, and there's no more crazy people on earth. I've got to explain, though, before anyone gets angry with me for using that word, I as an affected person prefer the term 'crazy' or 'insane' over 'psychically ill', as it's called in Germany. There's nothing wrong with my soul, thank you very much. It's my brain that's in disorder. Still, in Germany it's considered politically incorrect to speak of a 'mental' illness… However, it's laudable that there's pages like Paraplush that try to take the stigma out off this type of illness and sensitise folks towards it. But they simplify it for themselves and hardify it for those affected. If we're so easy to be cured, with two or three sessions of conversational therapy and a little hypnosis, it's all our own fault if we still dare to be sick, isn't it?

Of course, Paraplush want to entertain, be fun, and in the end sell the patients as very real live cuddly toys, lifelike and made with love. The page belongs to a whisky retailer - a little cynical, regarding the fact that many mentally ill people take to drinking to ease their problems. Just add some bromide, pseudo-scientific forum entries, and all folks think that they are looking at a cutely trivialised image of the real black-and-white world of mental illnesses… No, they aren't. All they are seeing are the everyday prejudices you have to confront as a crazy person. And in the end, this is more harmful than letting it be at all.

January 2014

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