Comedy is more complex than it seems. It may seem like it’s simply making fun of or ridiculing a certain idea but when we talk about what can be made fun of or what can be ridiculed, it becomes a complex debate. When people make jokes on suicide or depression around me, some people think that it might be offensive to me or that it might hurt my feelings (given my history of clinical depression) but it actually doesn’t. I think something that a lot of people confuse is the difference between a joke on depression or mental health and treating mental health, in totality, as a joke.
Of the many jokes that do the rounds on social media, it is important to first differentiate between which one is a joke about depression and which one treats depression as a joke. The former one is fine and may not seem funny to you but well, there is nothing ethically wrong in it. But if you see someone treat depression or suicide as a joke, you need to have a little chat with the person.
When you do come across such people, it is important to have a talk with them in the right way; otherwise, if you insult them or alienate them, they might end up generalising your insults to the whole of the population. This might make them treat depression as a joke even more.
People are going to make jokes but ignoring them is not going to help anyone. Ranting against them is going to alienate and infuriate them. It is more important to use a popular joke as a means to make people more aware about the gravity of the situation. Humour is a powerful tool and it can shed light on some very important topics so when you do find someone treating a big issue as a joke, it is important that you take that opportunity to teach them something useful. Maybe not always at the same time as when the joke is cracked, but it is important to reach out to them.
Mental health doesn’t have to be an us versus them fight. It is not one of those fights. Everyone involved could fall prey so it is really important to spread our message to as many people as we can and that too in a friendly way. Losing your cool, abusing people into submission or writing long paragraphs is not going to help. A candid conversation might.
So the next time you see a person treating mental health as a joke, have a candid conversation with them, try to understand their point of view and you will probably have a more powerful effect if you try and talk to them after that. If they are in a group or don’t seem to be in a mood for a serious chat, wait, be patient. It is not going to be easy to change someone’s mind but it might be helpful to people you don’t even know.
This article was originally published here.