Making a Joke of Mental Illness – Where To Draw The Line

Self-deprecating humour is my JAM. Literally, I probably having the most dry sense of humour in the world and I also love it when other people use it because I just like a person who can take themselves and their situations with a pinch of salt and make light of a situation. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re definitely taking yourself too seriously.

Here’s an example. I call my anti-depressants my NZT (a reference only Netflix-bingeing-Limitless-fans will get). This isn’t me undermining my depression, it’s me making light of what is actually a very serious situation. It’s also a great way for me and the boyf to discuss in public, if he needs to remind me to take them for example.

But I do think that there is a very thin line between what is humorous and what is offensive.

A cancer patient who is able to joke about their hair-loss – acceptable. Anyone else joking about cancer patients hair-loss – not acceptable. And I think the same should apply to mental illness too.

Why is it, that we have jokes like “someone forgot to take their happy pills this morning”… when it’s a commonly known statistic that 1 in 4 of us actually do suffer with mental ill-health at some point in our lives? We are taking our medication for a chronic illness. Because that illness resides in our brain, why does it make it any less serious than any other chronic illness? Would we say “someone forgot to take their insulin this morning”.. UGH, no! Why do we think that mental ill-health is any less serious to joke about than other illness. I’m very cautious of making sure this post doesn’t sound rant-y. Difficult. Back on track.

I firmly believe that 99% of us act without malicious intent, and that we don’t actually intend to offend other people on purpose. But I do believe that a lot more care needs to be taken, particularly when dealing with sensitive topics like suicide.

People will so flippantly say “that seminar was so boring it made me want to kill myself” unknowingly beside a person who lost a brother/mother/friend/neighbour to suicide.

I think a lot of these little comments arise from people being unaware of what a widespread and serious issue things like mental health and suicide actually are. I was so so pleased to hear about the Duchess of Cambridge’s plan to make access to mental health material/curriculum in schools more available and encouraged. There is so much work being done to educate people on mental health, but it’s not enough.

If people view mental health issues as something that is humorous and funny, it makes it incredibly hard to admit to having a problem and being taken seriously for it. We need to exist in a world where we can say “I’m really struggling with low mood and to get out of bed” without someone making a joke, or thinking you’re being attention seeking.

I am challenging myself and my peers more and more every time I hear a mental health joke being made, as hard as it is, it’s the only way we can possibly fight the stigma. We are not just “grumpy/lazy/attention-seeking/bored”. Can I encourage you all to challenge the “jokes” you hear too?

 

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