Mental illness. Defined in Webster's dictionary as:
"Any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning."
Quite a lengthy description there, and if you'll notice... not one bit of humor in that definition. Nothing funny. Nothing to joke about.
And yet... WE DO.
"We" as a society, joke about mental illness like it's the funniest thing on earth.
Like, come on, if you have to make fun of those with life-threatening psychological illnesses to entertain yourself, who's the sick one here?
I know that we have been socialized to say things like "she's so bipolar" or "I wish I was an anorexic" and a number of other common ways to slang term debilitating diseases. We often make these remarks and laugh- but the laughter that comes from this isn't laughter that makes light of a dark thing- it's the kind that pokes fun, and that's why it's a problem.
If we joked about cancer, or diabetes, or down syndrome the way we joke about mental illness, it would take all of two seconds to get slapped upside the head. You know why? Because... JOKES ABOUT DISEASES AREN'T FUNNY.
Mental illness is NO exception to this.
If you accidentally have used the mental illness slang that's all too common in this culture, it's okay. It happens. This article is not to guilt or shame you. It's not for you at all.
I'm talking to those of you who find personal enjoyment in the act of putting other's down. I am here to tell you — you're just as sick as those people who's illness's you find hilarious. In fact, you are probably much sicker than them. It takes a certain kind of ill to find gratification in the suffering of others.
As someone who has personally struggled with mental illness, let me just say... your words hurt. Those jokes aren't funny. It's one thing to laugh with us through the pain, but it's another to laugh at us for our pain.
Our struggles are real and debilitating and at times even terminal. People's lives are taken every day from mental illness. And the sickest part is, every joke you make about us, adds to the stigma that our sickness is invalid, fake, made up, or altogether insignificant.
It is hard enough for the mentally ill to feel they are "sick enough" to get help, and it's even harder to reach out for help when the world around you is poking fun at something that may be secretly destroying you.
So, with that being said, do us all a favor, and lay down the mental illness jokes, and go watch some stand-up comedy if you need a good laugh. Read some jokes on the back of a Laffy Taffy wrapper. Heck, I don't know. But every time you choose a person with an illness to joke about, you're not only minimizing their struggle but in a way, dehumanizing them.
My hope for this article is to make you aware of the damage you are doing, and the lack of humor that really exists within these sorts of jokes. But if you can read this, and still feel 100 percent OK with making those jokes — like I said, you, my friend, are the sick one here.
You're sick because you cannot see the harm in making fun of the mentally ill population. And perhaps that is a blessing. If you can truly find humor in this, then you have without a doubt never experienced first hand or second hand the toll a serious mental illness takes on the sufferer and their loved ones. And for that I am grateful- I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy. Ignorance is bliss, and if you live in bliss then consider yourself lucky. But don't use that as an excuse to make what was living hell for me and so many others, a joke for you.