Can We Joke About Mental Health?

Happy Tuesday campers!

Today we’re going to try get to the bottom of the big debate: Does humour de-value those suffering from mental health, and where do we draw the line?

I’m going to start with the conclusion. Because in my opinion, it’s all about self-awareness.

Possibly every doctor I’ve ever met with regards to mental health has told me I’m very self aware; the problem is, I don’t have any control. I can watch myself spiralling, know every step and every feeling, but I can’t change it. I can see signs that I’m about to act up for a couple of days, but I don’t have any control over the trigger.

And with this self awareness, I essentially take the piss out of myself about 23 hours a day. The 24th hour is when I breakdown about something that happened 8 years ago while eating sweets and watching Brooklyn 99.

For me, exchanging memes with my brother regarding mental health is totally hilarious and mostly the only way we communicate.

I take the mick out of myself with my friends when we talk about my sensitivity, and I don’t mind telling a select few when I’m feeling particularly anxious or having a mini episode.

I think once you’ve suffered for so long, you become very self aware about how you’re feeling – whether it’s too happy or too low or too anxious to class as ‘normal’ – so there’s leeway in how serious you take yourself in retrospect.

You’ve also got to accept that comedy is one of the best coping mechanisms. Pretty much for anything: So memes and jokes at the expense of your mental health are fine if they help you reach out or release some emotion in a light hearted way. But don’t expect everyone to react the same way. You’ll also need to accept that if you take the mick out of yourself, others might be comfortable doing so too. So being aware of your own limits and sensitivity plays a big part in whether or not you should be joking around about your health.

And this is where the lines get a little blurry for what’s acceptable and what’s not. Mental health disorders are illnesses as debilitating as disabilities and diseases like cancer or malaria, so should it really be treated any different? Should there be any joking at all? Some may use humour to cope, whilst others may take offence.

The way I see it, there are main guidelines to help try understand how to be aware and sensitive to a subject that is still extremely new to the public eye:

1. Never joke at the expense of others 

Mental health isn’t a joke. It never has been and never will be. And even if you’re using humour to make light of the situation, making jokes about someone else’s mental illness experiences explicitly is never funny.

2. Get Clued Up

What’s annoying about our whole millennial generation is that everyone seems to think they’re mentally unbalanced and that it’s hilarious and Instagram worthy.

If you joke that you’re ‘so depressed’ because your favourite top is in the wash, or your brows aren’t going right, you are part of the problem; it’s these trivial things that make others feel like they can’t talk.

It’s not funny to say you’re depressed, or you’re having an anxiety attack – Whether you suffer from these things or not. These are the sort of dramatisations that can be extremely offensive to others who suffer from these actual illnesses.

3. Know your audience, plan your timing 

Everyone reacts differently to everything. And people have fluctuating sensitivity. So being mindful of what other people might be going through, how they might be feeling or how they might react is super important.

Whilst people are still getting to grips with opening up about mental health, and incorporating it into everyday conversation, joking about mental health can make people feel pretty awkward or uncomfortable.

It’s important to read the room and the situation. I’ll joke about my brother and he’ll joke about me. But you joke about my brother? And we will take you down. I never allow people who haven’t ‘been there’ as such to mock my family or anybody’s state of mind, but if you struggle yourself I find it a great way to not feel as lonely and realise there’s so many people out there to support you.

What are your thoughts?


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