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Fairy Tales, but with Accessible Mental-Health Care

Once upon a time, in a land quite a bit further along in terms of accessible health care than the United States of America, an assortment of magical creatures lived together in harmony. Though you may recognize the names of some of their characters, these fairy tales are very different from the ones you’ve heard before, owing to a widespread awareness of—and affordable access to—mental-health care.

“Snow White”

When the dwarfs returned home from a long day working in the mines, they were shocked to discover that Snow White had arranged the chairs in their home in a circle.

“I find it unhealthy that everyone in this story has so passively adopted reductive and occasionally demeaning names for themselves without question,” Snow White said. “You are more than a single characteristic chosen to market you to an audience of children in the nineteen-thirties by an old white man who was, in all honesty, pretty racist. We collectively have a lot of work to do unpacking this with the help of a licensed therapist, who should be arriving at any moment.”

“You’re one to talk, Snow White,” Grumpy said. “Also, these aren’t even the most offensive nicknames we’ve had. Dopey’s name used to be way worse.”

Snow White looked Grumpy in the eye. “Yes, I also have personal work to do,” she replied. “And I hear you, but we do not have to be satisfied with marginal improvements in the fight for a better quality of life.”

“Rumplestiltskin”

The miller’s daughter skimmed her in-box from the comfort of her father’s house, where she had taken up residence while freelancing. A proposal from one client in particular caught her eye, and, wary of a future in which she ended up locked in a monarch’s windowless tower, up to her corset in straw due as gold by E.O.D., she called a meeting to manage expectations.

“First of all, thank you so much for thinking of me for this opportunity,” she began. “But, just so we’re all on the same page, is there additional budget for a mystical imp? I’ve got a contractor on call who is available and willing to throw in three free riddles.”

The king flew into a rage, but the miller’s daughter asserted the boundaries she’d set for herself in counselling: “Thank you for your time, but I don’t see this project working out in terms of my personal goals regarding work-life balance. I’ll unfortunately have to pass on this opportunity.”

She was beheaded shortly thereafter, but with great peace of mind.

“Little Red Riding Hood”

Little Red excitedly set off for the house in the woods, hoping not to be spotted by any locals along the way. At a young age, fame for her red cape and cheerful demeanor had taken its toll, and she was in need of a hiatus—a secluded cabin and the affection of a doting grandmother were exactly the self-care that the doctor ordered.

“Little Red, is that you?” came a voice from behind a bush.

Little Red froze, and out stepped a wolf holding a tempting basket filled with literature about a “restorative retreat” that he owned, where he offered breakout sessions on mindfulness, guided meditation, and forging your own path—a retreat conveniently situated on a shortcut to “wherever she was going.”

“Thanks, but no, thanks,” Little Red, who knew a scam when she saw one, said. “My momager has shown me too many docuseries about how this type of thing can quickly turn into a dangerous situation, especially for impressionable girls in positions of relative celebrity.”

The wolf cursed informative docuseries under his breath, and Little Red carried on through the woods without giving away any personal information.

“Goldilocks and the Three Bears”

Papa Bear ran his claw along the wooden countertop, its surface laced with deep knots that mirrored his own emotional knots, which he sometimes felt could never be undone, no matter how many bowls and bedspreads were replaced or what their sizes were. A flash of blond hair turned out to be only a goldfinch alighting on the windowsill.

He had not cooked porridge in months.

Mama Bear sidled up to Papa Bear, wrapping him in her ursine love. Sheltering him. It was too much. Too long had they been strong for Baby Bear.

“We’re safe here now,” Mama Bear said. “That little girl is getting the support she needs from BRAS [Bears Rehabilitating At-Risk Sociopaths].”

Papa Bear sighed. It was time to let go.

“Besides, not to invalidate your lived experience,” Mama Bear said, “but I didn’t hear her say that yours was the little bowl. You made that up.”

“The Ugly Duckling”

The little gray duckling gazed at his reflection in the surface of the pond. The results of the makeup tutorial had not turned out as anticipated. What was supposed to be a stylized rain cloud spilling out rainbow eyeshadow onto his upper lid somehow resembled an erect goose phallus, and the addition of rhinestones had not helped the illusion.

The duckling sighed, remembering the mantra that his adoptive mother, who’d been transparent about his parentage from the get-go, had taught him: “I am beautiful. I am enough. I am deserving of love and should probably get off Instagram.”

“Cinderella”

“Fairy Godmother,” said Cinderella, who was now going by Janet and had not lived with abusive relatives in years, owing to well-funded government programs equitably distributing fairy-godmother services. “This dress I’m planning to wear to the ball is frankly not going to help me externalize my inner self-worth in the way I was hoping. Could you stop by this afternoon and lend a wand?”

Janet’s fairy godmother’s disembodied head sighed from within its floating bubble. “I’m glad you reached out! But, actually, I’m currently helping someone else who’s in crisis, and also dealing with some personal stuff right now, and don’t think I could hold appropriate space for you. Do you have anyone else you could reach out to?”

“Pinocchio”

Geppetto had called yet another all-hands meeting in the workshop. It was a common occurrence, although no one really understood why they had to call it an “all-hands meeting,” because the only two employees were a cricket and a puppet, and only one of them had hands.

This day, Geppetto came in with a twinkle in his eye. “Well, now that everyone’s here, I have important news that will affect everyone at this company.”

Oh, no, thought Pinocchio, who had been stealing snacks from the fridge for months.

“I’m proud to announce that we have enrolled in”—Geppetto clambered on top of a beautiful, handcrafted chair for emphasis—“A COMPANY SUBSCRIPTION TO HEADSPACE!!!”

Then Geppetto made a d.j.-style air-horn sound effect. And they all lived happily—but not manically, or anything—ever after.


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