Why I Don't Joke About Mental Illnesses

I’ve come to the conclusion that my parents will never fully understand my generation and the way we function. I have gone through something I imagine most millennials can relate to on a spiritual level; something that starts off to be an innocent joke that my parents manage to turn into a life lesson. For example, my mom asked me to wear the dress she bought me back in ’08, and I reply with “I’d rather kill myself then get caught dead in that.” This turns into an hour-long lecture about how ungrateful I am for the luxury life she has worked so hard provide me with, and I talk about wanting to kill myself, which she clearly took too literal.

It’s the little jokes like this that I crack on a daily with my friends that made me realize just how oblivious I could be to the actual seriousness of mental illnesses. People lose friends and families way too soon due to depression; 5.7 million adult Americans live with bipolar disorder; people have actually been diagnosed with OCD from a therapist; and many other mental health issues are present in the everyday lives of people.

I understand when others say that normalizing and bringing these mental health issues to the surface is eliminating the stigma that a bad mental health means you are “damaged” or “crazy.” But I do not see how joking about it is the solution. In fact, I believe it is minimizing the issue at hand. We should educate ourselves and, instead, learn the real symptoms of borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, bulimia, insomnia, etc. to help those who hide their illness and encourage them to get professional help.

It’s become such a norm for my generation to make such controversial jokes that we don’t realize how we could be offending someone. Being a millennial, I understand the way we think. I’m fully aware that we don’t say things with bad intent, we are just always up for a good laugh — but how far we are willing to go to make each other laugh is what is starting to worry the older generations.

Being a millennial, I’ve grown up always having to keep up with society and its always changing trends, feeling pressured to always be up to speed and on top of whatever is in at the time. Sadly, the current trend is joking about issues that people suffer with every day and we don’t realize the seriousness of this. Don’t get me wrong; I’m always here for a good laugh until I’m in a room filled with people, and as I look around the only one laughing at the joke is me. I do not realize until it’s too late that someone is struggling with something that I consider a joke.

This is a wakeup call. Maybe my mother wasn’t being so dramatic when she said that joke about wanting to kill myself wasn’t funny. With 25 million Americans suffering from depression each year, you never know who will be in the room when you crack an insensitive joke that could trigger something and change a person’s life forever.