The Spoof in poor taste and humour
By Ian Birch
A Mental Healthy reader contacted me about a particularly distasteful and stigmatising website satirising people with mental health conditions and even pretending that 95% of the House of Windsor are on anti-psychotics or diazepam.
The site, The Spoof!, also reports on new World Health Organisation classifications of newly discovered diseases, some of which readers may find distressing e.g. “Had-A-Job Syndrome” which it describes as “being made redundant through no fault of your own, suicidal feelings, lack of food, and the disappearance of respect”. Another particularly distasteful example is “Cacospysy” (irregular pulse) which it describes as “panic attacks at government budget announcement time” and which it says affects “the poor”.
But it is the prejudice and stigma and sheer ignorance of mental illness which surrounds the spoof article on a (non-existent) iPhone app called “iShrink” which has outraged me the most. It pokes fun at people with a wide range of mental health conditions and does so without any justification … and indeed a number of links from this story are to other stories about mental illness.
The website says: “For people with depression, when a call is not completed, [the app] provides a soothing recorded voice telling the [app] owner that they are not being deliberately snubbed … After every completed call, the [app] will tell them that it believes the person they rang enjoyed talking to them.”
It then uses the stigmatising and prejudiced tabloid term “schizophrenics”, and says the app has a function allowing people with that diagnosis to call themselves “and hold a telephone call with themselves … it will ring randomly, and allow them to chat amiably between personalities.” The author obviously comes from the Jekyll and Hyde school of public ignorance about schizophrenia and has no idea that the “split mind” etymology of the word has no connection with multiple personalities. However, for those who do have multiple personalities (e.g. DID) “they can hold a conference call” says The Spoof.
ADHD sufferers are not let off the hook either. They “can hold up to fifty-seven simultaneous conversations and play a game of snake.”
If you have severe OCD, you will be as outraged as me to discover that “the OCD afflicted are allowed to key each number in as many times as they need to before the call is connected”, while agoraphobics “are constantly shown a picture of their living room on their home screen”.
The spoof story comments that they couldn’t get the paranoia function to work and that this was probably deliberate – if you have read any of my blogs you will know my feelings about this.
I appreciate the value of humour and am not averse to cracking the odd joke about my own mental and physical disabilities to lighten the occasion where necessary. But these descriptions are cruel and heartless, ignorant and stigmatising.
There can be no justification for a website like this to publish such spoof stories, and I hope by exposing them via Mental Healthy to make others think twice before wronging such a vulnerable bunch of people as those of us with mental illnesses again.