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Is It OK to Joke About Mental Health?

This is a sensitive subject. The words "mental health" immediately make some people feel a certain wa
Is It OK to Joke About Mental Health?
By Jordan Brown • Issue #87 • View online
This is a sensitive subject.
The words “mental health” immediately make some people feel a certain way.
They are words laden with heavy meaning for many.
And so it can be difficult to know what to say or do when words like “mental health” and “mental illness” come up in conversation.
This is especially true when conversation turns to joking around.
Which leads me to my question: Is it ever OK to joke about mental health?
Like everything, it depends.

I Was a Sensitive Kid
When I was a kid, I dealt with quite a bit of anxiety. I still deal with it.
The difference between then and now is that now I have greater awareness. Now I know how to put anxiety in its proper place. I’ve processed most of it, although dealing with anxiety is a journey that never really ends.
But what happened when I was kid, especially in elementary school and middle school, is that I would get teased and bullied for being too sensitive. Kids that are act differently stand out, and when you’re in an environment where everyone is trying to appear confident and in control, this can lead to some individuals targeting others and diminishing their feelings.
When this is the case, it is never OK to joke about a person’s mental health.
Why? Because there’s a power imbalance. There’s an Us Versus Them mentality. No good can come from that.
Thankfully, kids do grow up. And, slowly the world becomes more accepting.
Joking About Mental Health
This brings us back to our question:
Is it ever OK to joke about mental health?
It all depends.
Didn’t you just hate it when adults said that to you when you were growing up? It depends on what? Why does it depend? Do you even really KNOW what you’re talking about? WHY???
This is why it depends.
Because mental health is not a clear-cut issue. There are so many factors that go into it. Mental health is not just one person’s feelings. It’s the social environment. It’s the people you’re spending your time with.
If you’ve talked about mental health with certain people in the past, if you’ve all shared your mental health stories, then it’s probably OK to joke a little about mental health. But you should test the waters first.
And you should certainly not joke by putting others down. This is a common tactic for many comedians, cracking jokes at other people’s expense. It may get a quick laugh, but it leaves the target feeling lesser than before. This same logic can be applied to your own relationships.
You have to ask yourself, “What’s my motive here?”
Brene Brown, the famous author and speaker, has some great thoughts on giving feedback from her Engaged Feedback Checklist that I think are relevant here:
I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
I’m willing to own my part.
I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticize you for your failings.
I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.
While these are all about giving feedback, they carry truths that apply to mental health–and to life, in general.
Know the Context Before You Joke
With Brown’s (great last name, by the way) checklist in mind, think about the context you’re in before you joke.
Joking at other people’s expense is not good.
But, within the proper context, joking about mental health might be alright.
Using humor can be a great coping tool. It can bring people together if used in the right way.
It all depends.
I may not have liked that answer while I was in school, but now that I’m an adult, I realize how accurate it really is.
What do you think? Is it OK to joke about mental health? Send me a message and let me know! Do you want to discuss this further. More and more people are joining the Mental Health Update members community. AND…I just moved the community to a new service that makes it even easier (and more fun) to connect with others, ask questions, and share resources. Go here if you’d like to learn more.

That’s all for today, folks. Have a good one. No, have a GREAT one.
Jordan
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