Mental health jokes – funny, futile or worse?
Guest blogger Jessica Brown asks if jokes about mental health are offensive or funny
On last week's episode of Channel 4's 8 Out of 10 Cats, there were a couple of references to mental illness. As you can guess from the nature of the show, the references were jokes. Guest Johnny Vegas joked that he was mentally ill, and the joke was repeated by another guest a few minutes later. To most people, this will have been funny - but did it upset anyone?
Mental health being used in comedians’ material has been a long-standing debate, along with physical disabilities, illness and anything else that can be deemed offensive. The judgment of a joke being offensive, however, is subjective. What one person takes offence to, another finds funny.
Several comedians have faced media backlash for their offensive jokes, but should we be offended or should we laugh along? For sufferers of mental illness, there will be some days where the subject seems far from funny. In the long run, however, a sense of humour is imperative, especially when it comes to the things that we struggle with.
Making light of a challenging situation is an admirable thing to be able to do. It's easy to see how belittling mental illness can be offensive. Taking mental illness jokes too seriously, however, will only mean missing out on a laugh. A celebrity joking that he's mentally ill on prime-time television doesn't do much to tackle the stigma of mental health, but laughing at our problems is a great coping mechanism - so the joke's on him.