People who have a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, are often thought to be dangerous, scary or criminal, but this is the furthest thing from the truth. It is not only respectful to take into account the people you are hurting by throwing around slanderous humor, but to get educated before you joke. It is therapeutic to laugh together, it is splendid to raise awareness with comedy, but it is never okay to laugh at the expense of people with mental health conditions. It is not about ‘political correctness’, but it is truly about respect and dignity.
Suicide Jokes are Just Plain Hurtful
As I was scanning through my news feed on Facebook, I came across a video where Francesca Fiorentini was sharing her views on the recent political events in the United States. Francesca is a journalist, comedy writer, and performer. She is a host and producer with a reputable news organization. As a stand-up comic, she is influential and seems to be a caring individual, who is passionate about her views, and continues to reach millions of viewers. I scanned her very entertaining video segments and found an impacting and informative video that showcases facts, statistics, and her strong opinion about the failure of the mental health care system in America. I felt her empathy go deep inside my heart as so many of the same issues are extremely important to me as someone who lives with bipolar disorder.
Subsequently, I watched another one of her videos, which stewed an uneasy mix of heartache and anger in my stomach that launched me into a very negative place in my memory bank. Although Francesca has demonstrated to be extremely empathetic toward mental health, I then realized her performance that included suicide jokes lacked any genuine empathy and compassion. My heart broke as she rattled off a metaphor that entailed people wanting to ‘hang themselves’ and then proceeded to swallow a very large bottle of pills to show her discontent with the current political climate, not once, but twice during the video.
As a survivor who luckily made it through my own suicide attempt, which landed me in the ICU for 3 days, I did not find this act of comedy funny. It is degrading and triggering as it took me back to a time when I was alone, isolated and almost succumbed to swallowing my own bottle of pills.
Jokes to Steer away from when Talking about Mental Illness
Did you Take your Meds Today?
In the most unlikely places, such as my recent visit to a local pharmacy, I have found “humorous” signage sold as home furnishings that have referred to poke fun at people needing to take medications for their labeled ‘craziness’. I cannot count the times where I have heard the phrase “Did Someone forgot their meds today?”
Taking medication is a challenge for many people living with a mental illness and we are often blamed for not wanting to adhere to a medication regime. No one wants to have a chronic illness that they have to treat, especially when side effects can make your body balloon in a matter of months, and it often takes a frustrating number of years to find the right cocktail. Nobody jokes about someone missing their heart medication or insulin, and similarly, people have to take medicine for mental illness to stay well. Jokes about medication further fuels stigma and may cause people to feel shame, guilt, and embarrassment about taking medication. Some people may even decide to stop taking it because of the ridicule and judgement. Be a compassionate person, and remind yourself that medication jokes are just not funny.
It Must be the Voices in my Head
People also joke about hearing voices in their head, but in actual fact, psychosis does often intrude people’s minds with visual and auditory hallucinations that are not all that uncommon in people dealing with a mental illness. It is devastating to hear these types of jokes and leads people who deal with mental health issues to recall their mental health crises. It is not funny, but it is detrimental to many people’s quality of life.
I am going to Kill myself Today or Putting your Gun-shaped Hand to your Head
Don’t joke about taking your own life because you never know who is listening and has worked through a suicide attempt themselves, or have lost a dear family member or friend. In our exaggeration of feeling down, frustrated or pained, we do not have to succumb to the statement that we want to die simply because our life events are bringing us grief.
You are so OCD or your Ex is Bipolar
Mental health conditions are not words that you can just throw around to describe people. Your ex is not so bipolar because your relationship was fraught with issues. A person who is fanatical about keeping their house clean, or is very particular by embracing color codes for their organizational needs, does not necessarily have obsessive compulsive disorder. The person’s whose ideas you find ludicrous is not psychotic. Many people who have mental health conditions are people you would never suspect have them. For instance, your friend who always appears to be calm could have anxiety brewing inside that nearly disables them from being in a public setting.
There are numerous people who are thriving with mental health conditions and it is not helpful to label them as freaks or monsters. They are valuable and wonderful human beings who have so much intellect, talent and creativity to contribute to the world. Stop calling people who are acting in negative ways as ‘mentally ill’. It is incredibly offensive to people with mental health conditions and it is possible to be more creative with our humor.
Have you encountered mental illness jokes, and if so, how did it make you feel?
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community