A Sociological Perspective On Mental Illness In America

November 28, 2012 Alistair McHarg

As you would imagine, the management of HealthyPlace rewards me handsomely for penning Funny In The Head which weekly tickles America and beyond with a droll mélange of insouciance, absurdity, and je ne sais quoi, whatever that is. This lavish remuneration has enabled me to purchase a weekend house on the Cape, a weekend cape for wearing around the house, and a meticulously restored 1933 Hispano-Suiza J12 cabriolet. Well and good, you say, but man cannot survive exclusively on dessert!

Your point is well made. Despite the almost embarrassing tsunami of wealth bestowed by the Internet’s leading, (and most decorated), mental health website, I must, on occasion, venture out into what I shall refer to as – the valley of the shadow of K-Mart - in order to supplement my income and pay for the mundane necessities of life such as spats, plimsolls, and Fred Astaire biographies. Like so many writers before me, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas, and Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry, to name just the most universally familiar, I take to the lecture circuit where I beat my gums, and remaining teeth, in hopes of drumming up revenue.

Recently, the Party Planning Committee at Chumley Fortesque Memorial Community College invited me to deliver my bread and butter lecture, “Why You So Messed Up, Man?” I accepted. A bright-eyed assemblage of students still clutching desperately onto the concept of upward mobility, and several inebriated janitors ducking responsibilities, filled the dingy lunchroom, which had been hastily rearranged to serve as an auditorium. I gave it my best. When I was through, an eager audience member asked the now-familiar question which seems to hound me wherever I go, as if I had just escaped from Leavenworth.

“Mr. McHarg,” he ventured, “why are there so many mentally ill people in the United States? Where do they come from?”

By now, I am accustomed to this question, although still appalled by what its mere existence says about our educational system. And so, in measured tones masking my impatience and disappointment, I began what has become the canned response.

“America,” I gazed beyond the tops of my reading glasses for effect, fairly oozing disingenuous gravitas, “is a nation built on immigration. We are all familiar with how, fleeing starvation brought about by the potato famine, destitute Irish families landed on our rugged shores in search of work. Our forefathers themselves fled religious persecution and sarcastic remarks. Soon the Italians arrived because it became obvious that there needed to be a pizza parlor on every corner; the fledgling nation was being unified by a love of freedom, ambition, and a hearty appetite for pepperoni.

Then came the great Whackadoomian Emigration of double-ought, where mentally ill individuals throughout the world packed their meager belongings into imaginary suitcases and swam toward Lady Liberty’s beacon – treading water during the day when the beacon was unlit. In America they hoped to find the chance to be unhinged in a way that was marketable, which led ultimately to reality TV. Quietly, in small communities throughout the land, they built pockets of whackadoomiousness, and flourished.

From Knothead, Maine to Improbability, Tennessee, and Not All There, Wyoming, mentally ill Americans worked, fell in love, formed families, prospered and polished up the hood ornament on the American dream just like the rest of us. Today, they are in our midst, virtually everywhere, woven deep within the warp and woof of the American flag; indeed, as you watch the stars and stripes wave you can almost hear the sound of barking.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2012, November 28). A Sociological Perspective On Mental Illness In America, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 29 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

November, 29 2012 at 6:57 am

Hi Alistair :) Given my unemployed situation, Kmart is starting to look good. Daytime water treading is becoming a new water sport, and I definitely find myself barking about one thing or the other on occasion. One thing I can be sure of is that I am barking mad and love pepperoni.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
November, 29 2012 at 10:39 am

Hi Cindy - I'm just imagining how I would do as a greeter at Kmart - might be a good place to work on the stand-up routine. Maybe not.

Honshu Brontevich
November, 30 2012 at 8:06 am

Dear Doctor:
I realize you're not a physician. However a distinction without a difference is still worth more than a fruit bat in Vienna. But that's not what I came to say. And if you suggest otherwise, I'll deny it. In the meantime... CG Jung, as a jung man, once opined that the problem with 'time' was not the same as the problem with Rosemary. Now in her 70's, Rosemary is able to look out, through the bars, to a field, beyond which is a dilapidated lapidary who still hones his considerable crafts by day, while strumming an onyx tuba by night - the sight of which is not appropriate for small children or nursing mothers. She (Rosemary) has specifically asked some sage advice. I'm fresh out. Can you assist? Parsley yours, HB

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
November, 30 2012 at 9:52 am

Wish I could help. Thanks for stopping by!

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