“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is
that good men do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
Maybe you will decide you want a ‘dislike’ button on my blog when you’ve read this, and that’s okay. I love feedback, regardless of whether you agree or disagree. All of it (with the exception of being personally abused) is welcome. I believe it is important to react to what we see and read. It’s all too easy to just let things slide. To think I don’t want to be the party pooper, so I won’t say anything. To leave it for someone else to say. And that’s covers negative AND positive feedback.
That’s why when I see something that doesn’t sit right with me, I try to make sure I speak up. It might not be right but it is my opinion. It’s hard though, especially if I know I will be going against the majority. When I know that some people won’t appreciate what I think. I have to remind myself that I’m not speaking up to be popular, I’m speaking up for what I think is the truth.
At the weekend a pic came up on my Facebook news feed that I struggled with. Actually nowdays it is a miracle when anything shows up correctly on the news feed, so I should be grateful. Instead I was disturbed. I sat on it for a while to give myself time to try to see it from different perspectives. I know that as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) I can be prone to impulsiveness, let alone inappropriate anger. So it’s important for me to give myself time to be sure of my reactions.
“Today is International Disturbed People’s Day
Please send an encouraging message to a disturbed friend… just as I have
I don’t care if you lick windows, take the special bus, or occasionally pee on yourself…
You hang in there sunshine, you’re friggin special.”
The pic included with the text was of a cartoon-typified nurse in uniform.
Don’t get me wrong. I can see a funny side to this too. I do actually have a sense of humour and have personally been in that ‘special bus’ (thankfully without signage) and have peed on myself more than once(when I had ECT) and had to walk back to the psych ward through a public hospital reception area. So there are things I can relate to personally. But that’s not enough for me to think it is a great joke and share it on.
I have no problem with laughing at myself but draw the line at laughing at someone else’s behaviour, especially when they may not have control of it. It’s not fair on those individuals (because they are real people) and it paints a picture for the community at large that this is how we recognise a ‘disturbed person’.
I’m not even sure who qualifies as a ‘disturbed person’. Obviously the behaviours above must indicate ‘disturbed’ but is it just if you fulfil all those criteria? I dared to Google the term and came up with all manner of definitions, but because there was such a wide range I settled for the first (on the basis that many people would simply go to the first). It said:
I show signs, or symptoms of a mental or emotional illness, although to date have committed no crime, that I am aware of. I guess that makes me sort of disturbed. Hmm. But currently I don’t do anything described above and it is at least 12 years since I have, yet because I am a ‘disturbed person’ the joke is on me.
People make a lot of jokes about people with mental illnesses and in my country saying someone like this is ‘special’ could also easily be taken as something to laugh at. It doesn’t really mean they are special in terms of the standard definition of the word. We also joke in this country that a person might be “a jaffa short of a packet”. A jaffa, for those around the world, is a Cadbury chocolate/orange candy. There are masses of jokes like that and I read some of them as comments below the pic I have described. And it’s one thing to describe yourself that way, but in my mind it is completely unacceptable (no matter how funny it might seem) to describe someone else that way, especially if they are not in a position to be able to defend themselves, or correct the portrayal.
There is a constant stream of jokes about people with mental illnesses, or for that matter any disability on social media forums. And it is easy to say that it’s okay to laugh at jokes about ourselves with the line I often hear “it’s better to laugh than cry”. That’s got some truth in it, and I don’t have a problem with people laughing at themselves so long as they have thought about the consequences of that laugh.
I believe that jokes like the one above only add to the stigma associated with mental illness, and I believe that even having a laugh about yourself in that situation adds to the stigma. We all can say that we want stigma to be reduced but I think that these jokes are just one of the ways that adds to how the general public view people with mental illnesses, and then display that attitude of stigma.
Think about this for a moment. At the time I last checked that Facebook post I referred to, about 300 people had ‘liked’ it but 600+ people had ‘shared’ it. And anyone who uses Facebook will know how these clips snowball. I don’t know whether those people were ‘laughing at themselves’ or ‘laughing at those with mental disturbances’. But if all those people read that description contained in the pic, and then assume that means all people with mental disturbances behave that way… then they draw the conclusion that I lick the windows. Is that what I want people to think Iu do (because I have a mental illness)? I’m not ashamed (mostly after a lot of therapy) of what I do because of my mental illness but I don’t want people judging me on the basis of misleading data.
Yes, often I can see the funny side of these jokes and I could say that I’m just having a laugh at myself. But it grows like a virus and we end up with an environment of attitude and judgement based on information that is misleading, but information that started innocently with a laugh at ourselves.
If I want to stop stigma, I have to actually do something about it rather than just wish it would go away. I have to be prepared to only broadcast the truth. I can’t expect people to stop judging me a certain way when I still put across a mis-formed view of what mental illness is.
But that’s me and maybe I just don’t have much of a sense of humour. I’d love to hear what you think.
“I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not
hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”
– Leo Buscaglia
- Mental Health versus Mental Illness… a Stigma Issue? (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Stigma (Passions Profile Challenge #6) (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Normal (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- A Man Named Jason… And Why I Cried (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Mocking mental illness is no joke (thegazette.com)
- On Jokes and Insults (ishanamaya.wordpress.com)