Prof. J. Polish
21st Nov. 2017
Mental Health of the Anons
The play Anon(ymous) by Naomi Iizuka is an insightful piece that shows the life of refugees from different places in the U.S. The play is simple at first glance and depicts a heroic journey of Anon, a young refugee from a war torn country, but as you dive deeper it becomes clearer that it is in fact a play that addresses the problems that immigrants face. According to UNHCR there are about 20 million people classified as refugees (http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/refugees.html, 4th Nov. 2017). These refugees have various mental health issues which are very often overlooked because of the lack of resources and knowledge to recognize them. Because of this, many refugees suffer from very dangerous mental conditions. As a result of such uncared and untreated mental condition, Anon, who seemed to be very healthy and had a very strong will to survive, could in fact have developed a mental illness and the entire play could have been his imagination. Although the play in itself is fictional, the characters in the play slightly hint that Anon could have had some mental issues.
The first hint that the play is Anon’s imagination is seen when Naja enters from the ocean as a surfer. Although making Naja a surfer makes us think that the scenario is legit, it is clear that that is not the case as Naja talks about telepathy and at the end of the conversation Naja and Anon dive into the ocean. The scene clearly shows that the very beginning of Anon’s adventure in the place, which is not his home, could simply be his imagination. An article on Mental Health of Refugees by WHO says, ”..many children may be unaccompanied. They have special needs. If these needs are not met, serious mental health problems are likely to occur” (http://apps.who , 4th Nov. 2017). It is not uncommon to find signs of depression and frustration among refugees, especially children. As said above, Anon could have been a very similar victim of mental problems and could have suffered long term problems like schizophrenia, depression and frustration specially because he was from a war-torn place.
A study done by a team of psychiatrists from the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland on Combodian teenagers who had been held in refugee camps when they were 12 or younger, still suffered a range of psychological problems when they were 20 or younger (http://www.nytimes.com , 22nd November 2017). Anon could have been one of these children. Although he suffered the same conditions as them or maybe even worse, his mental wounds remained untreated and resulted in things that were far worse. But this could also be true for so many other refugee children. The children under the study were only a fraction of a much larger group. Anon, was only a representation of the many children whose mental health remain neglected.
In the play Anon displays many things that are unusual like hearing voices, talking to people that aren’t really there, illogical thoughts and violent speech or action. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder whose symptoms match very closely to the behavior displayed by Anon. Although delusions and psychosis are major symptoms of schizophrenia, other symptoms can include false memories, paranoia and hallucinations (www.nytimes.com , 21 November 2017). A study done on schizophrenia titled Social adversity during childhood increases schizophrenia risk concluded, “The study found that the more social adversity “harzard ratios” that a person experienced, the more likely they were to develop schizophrenia later in life” (http://www.schizophrenia.com, 21 November 2017). Hence it is possible that Anon, who went through so much struggle very early in life could have been sick this whole time. This also leads us to believe that although not all, major portions of the play could simply be Anon’s imagination.
To conclude Anon, our hero, who is on a quest to discover himself and find his mother in this foreign land unknown to him is struggling not only against the harsh conditions that have been displayed in the play but is also fighting the psychological trauma. He is a survivor of a war but he is still a fighter in the battles in his head. He is a representation of everyone who survived only to fight more battles, all the refugees, the children and the parents. His role through the play is to attract the attention of people towards those who need help, not only financial but also social.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “Refugees.” UNHCR, 4 November 2017,
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Health Organization. “Mental Health of Refugees” 1996
Goleman, Daniel. “Terror’s Children: Mending Mental Wounds” February 24, 1987
The New York Times. “Symptoms of Schizophrenia” February 17, 1981
Schizophrenia.com. “Social Adversity During Childhood Increases Schizophrenia Risk” September 01, 2005
http://www.schizophrenia.com/sznews/archives/002356.html 21 November 2017