Just in case you needed a better reason than “It’s not funny.”
If you tried to go a day on campus counting every time you heard someone say the words “Urgh kms” or “It’s just so depressing,” I’m guessing you’d probably lose count. It’s usually in response to getting called out by a lecturer or not wanting to do an assignment or not having enough money to go clubbing three nights in a row. Last week, a friend told me “I think I need to call the Samaritans” after finding out the Chinese takeaway was closed on Wednesdays.
It feels like joking about mental health has become standard Uni culture, and depression, suicide, anxiety have all become the punchline- so much so that students do it without even thinking. And, okay, the majority of them don’t mean to cause offence. They probably don’t even realise its wrong. But the thing is, it really isn’t funny. And, more importantly, mental health shouldn’t be trivialised or written off – and least of all laughed at.
“What’s the big deal? It’s just a joke.”
I get it, you’re probably thinking “Look at this Millennial snowflake getting offended by everything – can’t we have fun anymore?” But the thing is, it’s never just a joke. If people suffering with their mental health joke about it, there’s usually a reason. And if people who aren’t suffering joke about it, they’re probably hurting someone else.
It won’t help
First things first, I guarantee there will be someone reading this and telling themselves “I joke about my depression to help myself cope.” Look, I promise you, I get it. It’s really easy to try and laugh it off instead of trying to deal with the problem. But, in the long run, it won’t help. There’s nothing trivial about the way you’re feeling, and there’s no shame in taking it seriously instead of burying it in the sand.
On another note, if you notice a friend acting that way, there’s probably going to be a reason. Maybe they’re trying to cover it up, maybe they’re secretly asking for help. Either way, asking them how they’re really doing could make the world of difference.
So you might think its harmless. You’re sat in a group with your friends and laughing about what you consider to be “Just a joke.” But had you ever considered that there may be one person in the room who’s actually suffering with one or all of the problems you’re making fun of? Of course, they laugh along with you. (They’d never let you see anything was wrong now that they think you’d find it funny). But when they go home they lie awake questioning whether what they’re feeling is really worth taking seriously at all. No one should be made to feel like that, especially by their friends. Joking about mental health isn’t just insensitive, it’s hurtful, and it can have a lasting impact.
People struggling with their mental health can find it incredibly hard to seek help. In fact, its probably one of the most difficult things they’ll ever have to face. They already feel like their problems ‘aren’t serious enough’ or that they’re ‘just being silly.’ They’re already embarrassed (even though they definitely shouldn’t be). How likely do you think they are to ask for help after hearing that their peers think their problems are not only funny, but throwaway? Not likely at all. Getting help is the key to recovery, and trivialising mental health only prevents that from happening.
It’s really not funny
This is one I really struggle with. I fail to see how something so serious as mental health ever became the butt of the joke in the first place. Because, if you think about it, it’s really not funny at all. Opening up about mental health is vital, and we’re getting good at it. But laughing at it goes over a line that should never be crossed.