Please Stop Using Mental Illness as a Sad and Shameful Punchline

The U.S is about to embark on yet another political slogfest they will for some inexplicable reason last the next 16+ months. Why are Americans so masochistic about their elections? Who knows. But one thing is already ramping up and getting on my nerves, and that is the use of mental illness as a put-down to describe political opponents.

I don’t care who you are supporting in the next election. As I’ve said before, mental illness knows no political party, and neither will this site. And frankly, it doesn’t matter because both parties are guilty of it. To hear some people tell it President Trump somehow has every mental illness in the book and, since all the known ones are taken by Trump, the right invented a new diagnosis, “libtard,” to describe the other side. This goes with social media hashtags like “liberalism is a mental disorder.”

Except it isn’t. Depression is a mental disorder. Anxiety is. PTSD, Schizophrenia, Trichotillomania, Borderline Personality Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and so many, many more are actual mental disorders. And the people who struggle through these disorders, who wake up each day to fight the same demons that tormented them yesterday and that may have haunted their sleep, are amazing people, people who are discredited and shamed unnecessarily every time mental illness is used as a negative punchline.

And of course it isn’t just politics where this happens. People will say traffic is crazy, that their ex is a whack job, that their boss is a sociopath, and so on and so, so much so that people have become desensitized to the actual plight of those who suffer and with each bad joke the stigma grows. So please, please stop using mental illness as a sad and shameful punchline, as if it is something that the sufferer should be ashamed of. 

Because there are actually ways to make mental illness a punchline that weakens the stigma, the way laughter weakens a boggart in Harry Potter’s world. For example, this past weekend I was talking to someone about mental illness and her response was, “well do you have a solution? Because mental health drives me nuts!” I laughed, she laughed, and the stigma shrunk. Because it was an honest reaction to this terrible condition, made in a wonderfully humorous way. Indeed some of the funniest people out there make light of their depression in a way that empowers other sufferers. And if don’t believe me, go check out The because that shit is hilarious. But she does it in a way the doesn’t demean mental illness suffers, but strengthens this amazingly strong tribe of people struggling in the dark.

Mental illness can be funny, but not when the punchline makes mental illness out as something unmentionably embarrassing, something that one should feel the need to hide. So just stop. Because if you aren’t strong enough to use humor to lighten the load of someone suffering, if you use other people’s plights to put them down, than it is you who should be ashamed, not them.

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