Are you ever just sitting there, minding your own damn business and then suddenly, you’ll hear it.
Somewhere, either in person, the internet or TV, someone is joking about mental health.
There is a grey area here. Humour is a great way for people to manage their mental health.
But there is a fine line between joking about your own mental health, and joking about, or insulting, someone else’s.
You cannot assume to know someone’s story and therefore you cannot assume that any part of it is ‘funny’.
I’m talking about this from my own perspective of course.
Let’s talk about suicide as an example:
“Why don’t you just kill yourself”
“If I don’t xyz I’m going to kill myself”
“Just die already”
There are so many examples I could use, let’s be honest, social media is filled with trolls laughing their way through other people’s pain.
I’m very aware it can be a coping mechanism.
The problem with this example though, is that:
A: If someone is suicidal, and you tell them go and die, even as a joke, it might push them to do it. You don’t know that someone isn’t already looking for a sign to end their life, and you might have been the one to give it.
B: If you joke about killing yourself, someone might actually believe you and worry. People might care and check on you. So when you say “lol I didn’t mean it” it can trivialise the subject.
Suicide isn’t a joking matter.
You see it all the time, people joking about anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis and more.
And sometimes it is entirely harmless and fine to do.
It’s okay to have outlets and ways to cope with your own mental health.
But you need to be aware of who can see or hear your jokes.
You may not be responsible for someone else’s mental health, but triggers can be extremely dangerous.
There is also a level of stigma you can add to, if you throw mental health terms around like adjectives.
Don’t joke about what you don’t know.
Think about today most common joke: you’re not allowed to be upset by something nowadays without being called a ‘snowflake’.
And honestly, snowflakes are really beautiful, rare and unique, so it’s not even a good insult.
But it tells us that people who have any form of trauma, or emotions, are not allowed to be upset by someone else. Someone who is making a comment on something that has ripped away a huge part of your life.
We are allowed to feel, but it shouldn’t be a joke to someone else.
So, the next time you joke about someone being ‘a drama queen’.
Or if you laugh about your brother being ‘an actual psycho’.
Or you tell someone online that they need to ‘get their head checked’.
Consider that the only thing you are doing, is adding to a problem. Adding to the stigma which makes it hard for people to find help, help that one day you may need.
Maybe you joke to deal with the feelings that you, yourself, have. That’s perfectly okay.
Just don’t direct the butt of that joke towards someone else, unless they have said that they are genuinely fine with it.
I myself will joke about my health at home, because I know my audience and situation.
But I don’t assume that someone will be okay with my jokes, nor do I start making jokes about other people’s health.
Most importantly importantly, I never, ever trivialise mental health.
You may see me once in a while tweeting about my own personal well being in a more lighthearted way.
The thing is though, I always try to be very careful with the way I word it, and that the only person it is directed at, is myself.
It’s just about being aware of your audience.
So, what exactly am I trying to make you aware of:
- Laugh about mental health if it helps you, but only if it’s your own mental health.
- Before making a public joke, make sure you know your audience.
- Don’t ever use mental health as an adjective.
- If you are upset by a joke that you’ve seen online, or maybe in your own home, talk about it. Don’t be afraid to air your feelings.
The point is, we are all here to recover, to enjoy our lives, not to tear someone else down and invalidate their feelings.