I Need A ‘Dislike’ Button

Don’t put me in a box!
Image via jobpostings.ca

“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:

dis·turbed
adj.

Showing signs or symptoms of mental or emotional illness: crimes that could only be committed by a disturbed person.  (1.)

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.

Image via cadbury.co.nz

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.

Time to think
Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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16 thoughts on “I Need A ‘Dislike’ Button

  1. Skylark

    I think there are four reasons why people make fun of others with mental illnesses: (1) Ignorance (95% of the time) (2) No Compassion (95% of the time) (3) Fear (they don’t understand the mental illness. Unfortunately, the media perpetuates that people with mental illnesses are dangerous and this does not educate or help people understand the disease). (4) Coping mechanism (this is how some people cope with a topic or something that scares them: they make fun of it. Sometimes, this is not appropriate and may be regarded as offensive. But joking about it sometimes, helps the person to see the lighter side of something that is very serious). I am not minimizing the importance of understanding mental illnesses. I am merely trying to grasp why people behave the way they do! You made a very, very interesting point in your post about laughing and making jokes about mental illnesses reinforces the stigma. I never thought about it that way. I don’t see anything wrong with standing up for what you believe in. It is never a bad thing to speak your mind regardless if others may not agree with your opinion. I always admire people who speak up and often wonder about those who choose to remain silent. Great post by the way!

    1. Thanks Skylark. I think your reasons why people make fun of those with mental illnesses are quite accurate. Your percentages probably are too. I also totally agree that seeing the lighter side of things helps people cope but I am concerned about the repercussions caused when things travel and generalise. Suddenly a few attributes of a few people become what others believe to be the truth for everyone. Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them. 🙂

    1. Hi Angel, I think it is sad but true that we generalize too easily and you’re right, what was innocuous develops a life all of its own. Does it mean we can’t laugh at anything? I don’t think so (with relief) but we need to understand the possible implications.

  2. there will always be comment that offend us with mental disabilities, but we have the choice of whether or not we accept them. I monitor my comments so that I can control what gets published. I don’t know if Facebook has such a thing, but that is a terrible place for hurtful comments. I must admit, that I have joked about something that I personally didn’t even realize it could be taken as an insult to someones mental health and I am trying to be more careful and sensitive about it. When we see stupid things like what you shared with us, it just tells you that humans have different levels of common sense and many are running low. Try not to take it personal. It is their problem that they thought it was funny, or if they misjudged you. You know you are not a stigma magnet, You know that you have come a long way in dealing with your issues and that you are an intelligent person that knows how to act in public. Surely this person wasn’t seriously thinking that those were things that actually had anything to do with you. Maybe that is why they felt comfortable telling this stupid joke, I’m saying sometimes people use bad judgement and we shouldn’t take it to heart. I would state that I didn’t think it was a bit funny and delete it.

    1. Thanks Carla. But perhaps I gave the wrong impression. I’m not at all personally offended by this but am very conscious that these ‘innocent jokes’ are making fun of someone who doesn’t deserve to be the butt of a joke. The post I referred to was actually made my a health promotion group, not an individual ( and I certainly had no power to delete it). Regardless of where it comes from it all contributes to the general stigma directed at mental illness. Do I feel stigmatised personally by it? No. It’s not my life anymore but if someone said those things directly to me at a time when I was stuck in the world, then perhaps I would. I only meant that we all need to careful of the long term consequences of jokes like that. No the person who posted it probably wasn’t thinking about the real people who live n that world and do get affected by other people’s generalizations.

      1. ok, I see. I’m sorry for getting it wrong. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurting over it. But I understand now. It is a good reminder. I have been guilty of being insensitive myself. I have grown up in an environment where we joked a lot to make light of certain things.I regress sometimes.

  3. I think most people are just fearful of people with mental health issues. I believe that there needs to be more education out there. I recently had someone leave a comment on my blog about depression, I guess they were trying to give me some helpful advice,and they told me that when they are “sad or depressed” they go out to the park with their dog,,and they feel better. This person clearly has no idea about depression, and how it literally takes over everything, and how it’s virtually impossible to even get out of bed and shower let alone go to the park. I chose not to answer this comment at the time,,,now I think I may go back and educate the person.
    Well written post Cate,,,and I too can laugh at myself at times.

    1. Thanks Nikki. Unfortunately I have family who take that approach too. It so misses how it completely takes over everything an can not just be shaken off.

  4. I do post the occasional joke about mental illness on my personal Facebook. However, everyone on my friends list knows I have quite severe mental health problems myself, and I think it’s out of respect for that, that they don’t share those pictures or jokes. I’m having a laugh at myself. I’d also never post jokes like that on my blog or other FB account though, because my sense of humour isn’t shared by everyone and they may be upset by it.

    I try to let pretty much any joke about mental illness go over my head. If I don’t find it funny, I try to ignore it. As said above, there’s a lot of ignorance out there, and I try not to let ignorance ruin the progress I’ve made. It does still happen though sometimes.

    I once found a blog full of jokes about BPD. They were HORRIBLE. People were posting about their BPD exes and being absoutely cruel. Saying they’d love to set them on fire and things like that.

    That, I couldn’t take.

    1. Yeah, I could do without that too. A blog like that would be pretty quickly unfollowed by me. I guess there will always be jokes and that’s fine (it’s human) but there can be consequences that we don’t even necessarily know of because things go viral. It’s the consequences that worry me when unwise people get involved.

  5. Pingback: Definition of Stupid | Infinite Sadness... or hope?

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