Thanks to everyone who helped make this comic possible, be it folks who created space or sensitivity readers.
If you want to find out more about psychosis, Acutepsychotic on Instagram has curated a fantastic resource list. Psychosis is super common, 3 in 100 people will have at least one psychotic episode in their life. 2-6 people 1,000 have a psychotic disorder, that’s more than the number of people with MS! Statistically, we all know quite a few people who have experienced psychosis, but it’s telling just how seldom folks openly talk about it
Given how common it is, it’s not something we’re very good at talking about. I hope this comic can be a small drop in the pond of material needed.
Print copies of this comic are now available at the Thingswithout.com store.
We Need to Talk About Mental Health, a comic by Liz Argall
If you see this:
Help they are coming after me in a co-ordinated global conspiracy trying to destroy all I love!
Remember, we live in an iceberg society.
The people called crazy?
Distressed person hunched against a wall: I can’t love things anymore or they’ll hurt it. I can’t love the libraries or they’ll come for them… defund them. They ARE coming for them, oh god!!
They’re often reflecting something much broader and deeper. A distorted mirror is still a mirror of sorts.
Distressed person: Humanizing support services, from schools to libraries to health care are chronically underfunded and it could get worse.
If a disaster made your fears and nightmares visible…
Distressed person: Racist populists are coming to power all over the world.
They’re using gaslighting techniques of emotional abusers! Abuse has been gamified.
People practicing stalking, doxxing and slander campaigns on BIPOC folks, women and anyone queer before moving on to bigger targets.
… and it can happen more easily than you’d think
What would it say about you, about us?
Distressed person: The pornography of suffering and stalkers has led to non consensual reality TV shows on the dark web. It means hidden cameras in the shower to watch me cry. “No one would do that!” “It’s illegal.” Why would that logic bring comfort? For some people, ethics are just a plaything.
In psychosis, metaphors, social programming, fears and beliefs become more literal, exposed and collapse on each other. They reveal the ills and joys of a person’s lived experience and trained perceptions.
Too many uncritically stew in toxic soups.
Person sitting in a large stew pot over a fire. The stew pot has written on it: Cruel and vile propaganda about Black men. Cosy white supremacy and fragility.
A friend told me how hard she’d had to work to get rid of her startle response to Black men. Shed been raised to fear, but did the work to push out of the soup.
There are poisons in our culture we have to fight.
Some choose to drink and make More Poison.
Pushing us closer to the dehumanization conditions for genocide.
The pernicious endemic fearful white defences laid the groundwork for “gay panic” murders. Fragility stoked to justify brutality.
Spectacled Black man in a park: Ma’am, could you put your dog on a leash?
White woman: Help Police!
Dog is smiling at man.
Nesting bird in the background looks surprised.
That white fear can be so instinctively and blatantly used to threaten murder is obscene.
We can control some of our inputs…
Young kid smiling and reading a book.
If people with power choose to be triggered by your existence.
Black kid happily walking along listening to music.
Freaked out white person: Call 911!
Black person in a car who has been pulled over by a police officer.
Police officer: Is this YOUR car?
Black person thought bubbles: I need to be polite, but not too polite in case they get angry at my fear.
Move slowly. If they arrest me don’t struggle, no matter how rough they are.
They could kill me. I mustn’t sho fear. I can only improve my chances.
Please let me survive this. I don’t want to die. Too. slow and it’s refusing orders, too fast… I don’t want to die.
When even resilience in the face of systemic torture is used as justification for brutalities.
Black kid dancing with thought bubble: Pain will not define me!
White person thought bubble: They don’t feel pain the way we do. They laugh at my suffering. I should hurt them more, to make them feel my angst.
Systemic racism is systemic abuse.
Compliance may increase odds, it does not guarantee safety.
Police officer firing gun: Your retreating back SCARES ME.
Black person running away: FUCK YOU!
Is it any wonder that some choose to run?
Some abusers are move obvious to deal with.
Man: Hi, can you help me?
Man thought bubble: My magical powers are working, dumb selfish slut.
Man: and now let me touch your tits.
Man: Fucking whore! How dare you?
But their pathology is a symptom of broader issues.
Man thought bubble: Women are virgins or whores. Everything is a power play. People aren’t really nice, everyone is terrible and selfish on the inside.
And if those broader issues aren’t dealt with it can even help more charming abusers.
Man: I’m so sorry that happened to you. You can’t trust anyone. I’ll protect you.
Man thought bubble: I’m so much better than those crazy assholes. The dumb sluts should appreciate me more.
Many careers and lives have been ruined by the stark raving sane.
We need to get better at talking about mental health.
Person: I’m trying new meds, so apologies if I’m a little bit off this week.
Colleague: Thanks for letting me know.
Which requires listeners to actually listen. A lot of discrimination is accidental, but still damaging.
Colleague: Woah! She has brain problems. I’d better change her duties without talking to her about it and not involve her in so many decisions. I wonder what sort of crasy shie is? Wy talk to her about it when I can wildly speculate about her with my colleagues?
Learning when it’s stigmatizing distraction.
Person: Uggh Central Park Karen, so dangerous the way…
Person 2: She’s psychotic, did you hear she…
Person thought bubble: During my psychosis, I kept staring at a Sikh man on the bus, because it helped me feel safe. I felt bad about staring, so I went up to him and thanked him for his service and the visible commitment to being a protector that his turban represented.
Person 3: Ha! Check out these hilarious conspiracy theories! Some folks are so stupid!
Person: Psychosis has noting to do with intelligence. You are showing me machinery that could be used to generate more psychosis without seeing the dangers. I am sad, grieving and scared for them.
Compassion is not the same as enablement
Person 4: Pink Elephants are taking over!*
Person: No they aren’t.
Person 4: How dare you deny my emotional truth!
Person: If I enable you, it could deepen your psychosis.
* Pink elephants taking over can be exchanged for may psychosis encouraging toxic conspiracy theories, such as white genocide
Person 4: Pink is real
Person 4: Elephants are real
Person 4: And I don’t have the power I want.
Person 4: See!
Person: NO. Put down the fucking gun.
Disaster can damage our mental health
Person 6 thought bubble (they have been decapitated and are crying): The structures I build my life around don’t work anymore. Might never work again.
Especially with chronic disasters of unknown length.
Makes it harder to get to the Post part of Post Traumatic Growth.
Person 6 thought bubble (there head has been reattached, though you can still see the line of scarring/healing): So now I build and seek out better structures. I will gratitude the shit out of every small joy.
Drought, colonization and Covid-19 are just a few types of chronic disaster.
The mental pressures will get high and research indicates that 2021 will have disasters.
Climate change won’t wait for us to sort our shit out.
We have a lot to heal, grieve and take action on,
Person 6 thought bubble (tears in their eyes): “We are the world, we are the children,” was a song of my childhood. I thought it meant us kids were supposed to save the world. I failed. We haven’t
and we have to do it all at once.
But the brilliant thing is we CAN heal and the work me MUST attend to
Person 6 (looking determined, staring straight out of the panel): We haven’t yet.
Is also the most powerful and healing.