We live in a time when mental illness is plucking our young people from among us and flinging them into the same river we hold as our defining emblem. We live in this time when men and women of all ages are thrown to the bottom of despair and choose to take their own lives, to the utter devastation of those who love them. We live in a time when the victims of our dreadful economic crash find themselves on their knees, powerless, and often homeless, unlike those who had the financial means to weather the storm and perhaps even gain from the poverty of their brothers and sisters.
But we also live in a time when we have abandoned words like Lunatic, Imbecile, Madman and worst of all Asylum.
For many years in this town, as in similar towns throughout Ireland and Britain, the word Asylum carried with it the most appalling overtones of opprobrium, of judgement, of belittlement, and more often than not such judgement came from the most ignorant among us. The most ignorant, the least informed and perhaps the most insecure.
I once knew two brothers who looked different, dressed in a different way and behaved in a manner so different that I asked one of them — the better dressed — if they really grew up in the same little house in the same little street in Limerick.
Of course we did, he said, unconsciously fingering the silk handkerchief in his blazer pocket. Why do you ask?
Oh, I said. It’s just that you have completely different accents.
False accents. That’s what insecurity will do to you and that’s what put our people in asylums.
But we threw off that ignorance. We stopped incarcerating our most vulnerable people in the prisons we called asylums. We stopped inflicting electro-convulsive therapy on those who wouldn’t conform to our notions of normality. We stopped locking people up in mental institutions for becoming pregnant, for being atheists or for having a claim to the farm.
We stopped treating mentally-ill people as criminals and began to understand that mental illness is part of all of us, each and every one. We began to understand that everyone can become depressed from time to time and we started to accept that. We began to realise that a person suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder isn’t an axe murderer but simply another one of us who needs support and encouragement to continue as an equal member of society.
Or so you’d think until you come across a cheap gimmick calling itself The Asylum. This is a horror experience set in an old building in Bruff, County Limerick where you can go to be terrified by actors posing as mentally ill people.
How classy is that?
Let me quote.
The Wailing Ward – An unknown virus has infected the patients and staff of St. Griselda’s Mental Asylum turning them into blood crazed mutants . They love to have visitors but hate to see them leave!!!!!
The Skullery – Clarice and Dexter Draco the deranged maniacs have escaped the ward and await your presence at Dinner in The Skullery. You’re all invited, but who‘s on the menu, Could it be you?!
Sanctuary – The occupants have fled the asylum to take refuge in the chapel only to discover that Fr. Archiprete and his congregation have been badly infected with the virus and are constantly on the hunt for their next victim. Are you next???
St Griselda’s mental asylum.
It wouldn’t have been enough to present the experience as a standard horror show that nobody objects to. Instead, the people who dreamed up this concept thought it would be appropriate to stigmatise mental illness, as if it hadn’t been stigmatised enough already by ignorant clowns.
Imagine what the reaction would be if they advertised their horror show a different way.
Spastic Attack – An unknown virus has infected the patients and staff of St. Griselda’s Hospital for People with Physical Disabilities turning them into blood crazed mutants . They love to have visitors but hate to see them leave!!!!!
That’s really going to work, right? And nobody will be even slightly offended.
How about this?
Direct Provision Dread. An unknown virus has infected black people at St. Griselda’s Direct Provision Centre , turning them into blood crazed mutants . They love to have visitors but hate to see them leave!!!!!
No. That doesn’t work either, somehow.
Now, I know who’s behind this idiocy and so do many other Limerick people. I won’t name them yet, but when the time comes I’ll be very happy to list their names even though they have a reputation for threatening legal action.
They can do that all they like in this instance, since this article contains nothing defamatory about anyone, apart from calling the sponsors of this stupid gimmick utter morons.
Let me address them directly.
Guys, I know you. I know you’re not the worst in the world. I realise that this venture is not born out of malice but out of crass stupidity since you are uneducated fucking imbeciles.
Overcome your stupidity and abandon this attack on the most vulnerable in our society.
Oh, and I’ll be happy to take down your silly logo if you ask nicely.