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Back from the semi-dead: Funny or Offensive?

Jan 15 2008 | Comments 8


We haven’t had this category for a while, but Masale Wallah helps us out with the below satirical piece from the Utne Reader. If you’re British, you’ll be best equipped to tell me if it’s Funny or Offensive.

Not Depressed, Just British!
A new take on mental health

George Farthing, an expatriate British man living in America, was diagnosed as clinically depressed, tanked up on antidepressants, and scheduled for a controversial shock therapy when doctors realized he wasn’t depressed at all, he was just British!

Farthing, a man whose characteristic pessimism and gloomy perspective were interpreted as serious clinical depression, was led on a nightmare journey through the American psychiatric system. Doctors described Farthing as suffering from pervasive negative anticipation: a belief that everything will turn out for the worst, whether it’s trains arriving late, England’s chances of winning any national sports events, or his own prospects of getting ahead in life. The doctors reported that the satisfaction he seemed to get from his pessimism was particularly pathological.

‘They put me on everything — lithium, Prozac, St. John’s wort,’ Farthing says. ‘They even told me to sit in front of a big light for half an hour a day or I’d become suicidal. I kept telling them this was all pointless, and they said that was exactly the sort of attitude that got me here in the first place.’

Dr. Isaac Horney, a psychotherapist, explored Farthing’s family history and couldn’t believe his ears. Farthing spoke of growing up in a gray little town where it rained every day, of treeless streets lined with identical houses, and of passionately backing a football team that never won. Although Farthing had six months of therapy, he mainly wanted to talk about the weather. ‘I felt he wasn’t responding to therapy at all,’ says Horney, who recommended electroconvulsive therapy.

Farthing takes up the story: ‘Hopeless case? I was all strapped down on the table, and they were about to put the rubber bit in my mouth when the psychiatric nurse picked up on my accent and said, ‘Oh my God, I think we’re making a terrible mistake!” Identifying Farthing as British changed the diagnosis of clinical depression to rather quaint and charming. He was immediately discharged from the hospital with a selection of brightly colored leaflets and an I Love New York T-shirt.

liz | 2:07 PM | Uncategorized

Kent Says:

Definitely more funny than offensive (as far as I can tell). As someone who has often suffered from “pervasive negative anticipation”, I think I can relate to Mr. Farthing’s state of mind. I also think that changing a diagnosis from clinically depressed to “rather quaint and charming” could actually be helpful to many others, just because the kind of treatment offered might be an improvement.

Jan 15 5:28 PM

Phil Says:

That’s a hoot!!

I loved this: “I kept telling them this was all pointless, and they said that was exactly the sort of attitude that got me here in the first place.’”

I love Brits.

Jan 15 9:00 PM

RobotDancers Says:

Oh, I definitely laughed at that but I laugh at so many things that it’s hard to keep track.

Mostly I laughed because I thought “When he wears that I love NY tee shirt all people are going to think about is the VH1 show and how they can’t believe NY picked Tailor Made.”

MmmmHmmm *snap snap*

That might just be me though.

Jan 15 9:11 PM

mark p.s. Says:

Funny and offensive yes to both. It pokes fun at the reasoning for ECT, and the imagined last second reprieve of the fictional ONE shock. Overall I’ld say its a pass, to poke fun of the diagnositics and treatments of psychiatry.

Jan 16 9:56 AM

Sherry Says:

I’m Irish and I think it’s quite funny. I liked it a lot.

Seriously, I have dual citizenship, have lived in the US and Ireland. I find in the US no one–including (especially?) mental “health” professionals–have even the dimmest notion of what I go through in my dealings with major depression.

In Ireland, on the other hand, people with absolutely NO mental health history get it right away. My cousin immediately said “Aah, the depression! Sure, it’s an awful old thing. I don’t have it myself but I know lots of people who do.” I felt better just hearing her say this.
It’s nice to be understood.

I’m always much less depressed in Ireland because at least I don’t feel isolated and alone. (Oh, excuse ME, I meant to say–as I’ve been coached by my US “helpers”–that I isolate myself. What a naughty girl I am! They should lock me up and drug me, don’t you think?)

Sherry (in a snarky mood)

Jan 16 6:53 PM

SallyT Says:

I find the scenario of being strapped to the bed, ready for that first shock, then reprieved at the last second by a nurse (what doctor would actually NOT proceed?) completely unbelievable.

Jan 18 5:38 AM

Rhi Says:

I’m a Brit, and it was funny, I’m not sure if it’s meant to be true or someone poking a bit of fun, but I definitely think it’s funny (although would probably be offended if I was in a bad mood).

Jan 18 10:54 PM

John M. Says:

Funny as a crutch.

But I looked pretty funny when I went toxic on meds and needed crutches too.

Jan 21 11:07 PM


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