Trigger warning: Mental health and suicide
I recently saw a post about how Halloween’s depiction of mental health negatively contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness. I thought about sharing it to my Facebook wall but then immediately thought of all the people who would roll their eyes at yet another thing people find offensive.
I think that’s bullshit. Stigma as it relates to several things, including mental health, is very serious. I am someone who has struggled with mental health my whole life. Anxiety, eating disorders and depression are my main issues. I’ve been on the brink of suicide many times and I didn’t tell anyone for a very long time. I didn’t want to seem crazy; I didn’t want people to think I was a burden and I didn’t want anybody to think I was looking for attention. So I didn’t tell anyone and I almost died. This is the result of perpetuating stigma and rejecting ‘political correctness’.
I know people who make offensive jokes did not give me my mental illnesses, but if you don’t understand how they are related I will walk you through how I view it. When I hear others make fun of people who are mentally ill, it tells me people will think less of me if they found out I was struggling. When I hear people make fun of trigger warnings, it tells me people do not take my illness seriously. When I hear people groan about how difficult it is not to use offensive language, I think people will see me as a burden if I open up and ask for help.
The stigma did not stop me from ever opening up. There were a few people who seemed safe enough for me to open up to. When I finally did tell someone, I got the help I needed. Sometimes help was someone telling me I am not unlovable or ‘crazy’ for my illness, while other times it was years of counselling.
I understand not every person who doesn’t believe in political correctness thinks suicide or anything of the sort is a joke. I am sure you have people in your life you care about very much and would do anything for. But if you are making jokes about these topics how are we supposed to think you take them seriously? If you are politically incorrect all the time or exercising your voice to declare how frustrating it is to change your language, I guarantee I won’t be telling you if I am ever suicidal, no matter how close you think we are. I can imagine other people in your life feel the same way.
Maybe mental health advocacy isn’t your “calling,” but you don’t have to be a passionate mental health advocate to respect mental health issues. I understand it’s difficult to change and I know it’s hard when your friends aren’t on board. I also know it’s nice for people to think you are funny; I used to make outrageously offensive jokes. But, seeing as how evolved we are as humans, we are blessed with the ability to change our behaviour. If exchanging a few words out of your vocabulary and finding a few new jokes prevents someone from throwing themselves in front of a car, I hope you think that’s worth it. Next time someone tells you something is hurtful, listen to them. What they present on the surface may not nearly encompass the burden they carry with them. You have no idea what anyone is going through. Listening to and respecting others validates their experiences and, in some cases, may save their lives.