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Sarafin, author of the Asylum Squad web comicAsylum Squad
a comic about four characters who appear to be suffering from what looks like schizophrenia

Asylum Squad: Comic Strip 3

Sarafin Updated: Jun 21st 2010


Asylum Squad 3

So Henry's story is going to be the most comical of the four main characters. It's rather embarrassing to admit, but I too had a bit of a "messiah complex" issue on and off while I was in the throws of psychosis. Apparently, this is quite common - I shared a hospital ward with a man who believed he was Krishna, a woman who said she spoke to God on the telephone (and who constantly hogged the patient line in order to do so), and several others who believed they were on holy missions of sorts. (I kept believing that I was the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who is a Lakota messiah.) These beliefs can arise out of the seemingly mystical experiences of mental illness, such as voices and visions, but what really fed mine, I found, were my delusions. In treatment, once I got over the hump of delusion regarding who I am as a human being, what was possible and impossible for me, and how the world around me worked, the auditory and visual influences were much easier to ignore, and in time they faded into the background.

I would like to point out, however, that I believe psychosis can be a very spiritual experience, and being a spiritual person, I also believe there were real outside energies affecting my aura and mind. Because of this, I have also sought the guidance and therapeutic touch of alternative healers, including a reiki-ist who was able to lift my cognitive impairment (which had made my memory and concentration shoddy). I think spirituality can be a very good thing, and I believe many people diagnosed with conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder cling to faith because it gives them the feeling that something is protecting them - the happiest patients on my ward were the spiritual ones. My stance is that even if spirituality is entirely bogus, the beliefs themselves more often than not bring comfort to the believer, and in turn there can be a kind of a placebo effect that benefits the person's mental health. And of course, for those among us who aren't spiritual, there's always adopting a new philosophy, such as simple rules to live by that can improve mood and bring peace of mind in daily activity. One eastern belief I learned of states that thought is the subtlest vibration the human body radiates, and that if a person can improve the way they think and perceive the world around them, there is a ripple effect, and other areas of life begin to reap these benefits as well. Like attracts like, basically.

Anyway, I also wanted to state briefly that I'm not Jewish, and that I hope the Henry Chan comics do not offend anyone who is - so far, I've not been made aware if they have. I didn't know much about Judaism when starting this character's story (although I was trying to learn more about Kabbalah), and I still don't know much more about it than the average non-Jewish person. I used the angle that Henry, coming from an entirely different cultural background (his parents are Chinese Buddhists), only knew to go by a handful of Jewish stereotypes, and even those got all scrambled up in his mind. So when other religious figures and beliefs later creep into the storyline, they are a product of the character's mind, and are not following the rules of the comic's universe.




Sarafin is a Toronto-based artist and writer, a student of illustration, and a self-described psychiatric survivor. She currently writes and draws a webcomic entitled 'Asylum Squad', which exemplifies the psychotic experience, satirizes psychiatry, and parodies drug culture. You can now view all of The Psychosis Diaries strips at and of course the ongoing series is available at

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Mental Health - Ceazar - Aug 6th 2014

Please! I need an mental health comic strips. Please help me i'm begging you. :(


thank you - Helena Smole - Jun 30th 2010


Thank you for the tip - of course I managed to enlarge the comics by clicking on them :)

The title of the book is still "under construction", but I can give you the subtitle:

A bright view at the schizoaffective disoder - bipolar or manic-depressive type

I will definitely add you on FB.

Keep drawing and take care



Helena: - Sarafin - Jun 28th 2010


Thank you for the kind words!  Yes, I feel my illness has been a very spiritual experience - it was precisely what gave me a sense of spirituality, and was, dare I say, how I became an optimist.  Prior to having it, I was agnostic, and focused solely on material gains - I was not happy.  It would take too long to explain exactly how at this point, but it's as though fighting for a better quality of life when I was really sick beat the blues out of me.  (I'll probably speak more about how I conquered depression later.)

Regarding the size of the comic text: you have tried enlarging the strips by clicking on them, haven't you?  If it's still a problem, then maybe the strips should be larger - Dr. Dombeck?

(There's a bit of an Asylum Squad fan page on Facebook - you need just search for it under Pages.)

What's the name of your upcoming book?


love your work - Helena Smole - Jun 23rd 2010

I love what you do, Sarafin! Especially the humor part of it. But also your balanced views: schizophrenia as an illness but also as a spiritual experience. You don't rule anything out. You say: it's a mistery. That is precisely what it is! Delusions are one way of bringing us to the awarness of our spiritual level. But they are not the only way (the lady said her faith was not psychotic - logically it isn't, for she got introduced to spirituality in a more classical way).

I read the texts below the comics. They are awesome. However I wasn't able to read the comics entirely - the pictures should be bigger, so we can read the text!!!

I also have schizoaffective disorder. Helena Smole is my real name. I am on Facebook. And I believe in the power of humor too. I wrote a book about my disorder - will be ready in December hopefully.


Helena Smole


Re: Placebo effect... - Sarafin - Jun 21st 2010

I'd like to elaborate on why I compared the benefits of being spiritual to the placebo effect.  Some atheist and agnostic friends of mine (not all, just a few) speak about spirituality and religion as though it should all be abolished, that it is holding humanity back, and that it is the root cause of most wars.  I personally don't share this stance (I was once agnostic, which changed after falling ill).  Because atheists and (most) agnostics put science first, I used the placebo effect (a proven scientific phenomenon) as an example of how faith could benefit a mind in need: the argument being that it doesn't matter how it works, just that it quite often does.  Personally, I believe that there's more to spirituality than just that, but I figured I'd suggest the comparison, so as not to exclude the atheist/agnostic viewpoint from the article.

To Sean: - Sarafin - Jun 21st 2010

I tend to do new strips in clumps of 3 or 4 (meaning one right after another, usually within a span of two weeks).  Then I may have a month with only one strip.  I'm a student so I have several projects on the go other than this series.  (I'm going to try and get one done before the end of this month, but if that doesn't happen, expect one at the beginning of July.)  Glad you're enjoying it!

when do we get new episodes? - Sean - Jun 21st 2010

Sarafin - when do we get new episodes? I've read all the comics and am waiting breathlessly for the next one. When do we find out what came up behind Sarah?

New Age? - Cathy - Jun 21st 2010

Perhaps this is some "new age" thing that I am not familiar with.  I can't imagine that this won't offend more than a couple people.  I  found the article sad at a minimum and if it is supposed to be amusing - you missed that mark also.  My relationship with God is not psychosis and even hinting at that is not amusing.  Placebo effect?  Sad.  Sad.  Sad.  You have my sympathy.

Dr. Dombeck's Note: No offence is intended.  We would never publish this work if we thought that was the intent.  The strip is not intended to be a commentary on your own (or anyone elses') religious experience.  Instead, the author of this comic strip is offering a fictionalized version of *her own* psychotic experience - what she experienced and observed in comic form.  Simply put, some people in the throws of psychosis experience delusions of a highly religious nature.  Such individuals to believe that they are being persecuted by angels or God himself (or sometimes herself), or that they are themselves angels or God him(her)self.  I have seen this myself while interning on various psychiatric units, and it is amply documented in most any psychiatric textbook you might pick up. This experience leaves people feeling alternatively incredibly powerful and powerless; fearless and absolutely terrified.  Other forms of delusion are also common (e.g., sexual, jealous, etc.) to the psychotic experience but are not illustrated here.  If you understand the story in this way, you will hopefully see what a brave and generous action the author has undertaken e.g., to illustrate and make clear a process that most people do not experience directly or appreciate. 

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