Original post (i.e. part 1): Suicide and Mental Health are not jokes
Inspired by Julie’s post about abuse for speaking out against joking merchandise (OCD)
*TW* This post will contain information about suicide, mental health, OCD/depression and much anger, passion, empowerment and bullshittery from stigmatizing comments and folks who cannot seem to understand mental health and the conditions we face on a day to day basis.
Articles/Stigmatizing Comments in question:
Target 2015 selling Obsessive ‘Christmas’ Disorder sweaters
September 2016 article about the year before’s controversy
Let me also just point out:
Outrage and Speaking out about ‘Kill yourself’ shirts | Making suicide funny? by idranktheseawater
TopShop Glamorizing Self-harm by Laura Lejeune
Now, I’ve spoken out back in August 2016 about how mental health and suicide “jokes” aren’t funny, appreciated or wanted–most of the time. There are ways of joking about mental health and suicide that is relatable and releasing–a catharsis if you will–rather than doing so out of dislike, ignorance and misunderstanding… or stigma, if you will.
What I find funny and what you find funny may be two different things. I could find a shirt funny and you could find it offensive, and vice versa. These opinions are formed from our own personal experiences, our lives, our stories, our journeys. They won’t always be the same. And that’s okay. That’s what makes us unique, individualistic and who we are.
However, can we not come to some type of consensus that mental health conditions are highly stigmatized? And, beyond that: abuse of any kind in any realm is so very often about blaming the victim–for “not leaving”, for “allowing” it, for “asking for it” and other related bullshit?
For the purposes of this post, I’ll be concerned the most with the OCD “joke” shirts and merchandise that exist in the world, but can also be easily related to other mental health conditions (as I can imagine there are some out there whose “joking parts” exist on merchandise), suicide and self-harm too.
I personally find the merchandise making fun and light of a condition as serious and life changing as OCD to be unfunny, offensive and despairing. It reminds me that individuals in society still think of OCD as a condition that’s hilarious. I force a fake smile and hide a grimace when I see these shirts that are making light of the condition.
And, I get that. Humor is a coping strategy, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s a line drawn between humorous and inappropriate. Dark humor can be both, but it only applies to certain people. Not everyone has dark humor.
Dark humor can be used when you can share your frustrations in a group that then connects you with each other as you release the PAIN you are going through. That’s good and that’s positively effective.
But isn’t it possible that someone within that group will find the humor offensive? Of course. Because again, we are all on different recovery paths, different journeys, and what’s funny to one person may not be to another. It IS subjective. When you have a powerful mass of people who speak out about their frustrations, their ill will, their sadness–then it’s time to take a pause and consider whether your humor is being misinterpreted, is misplaced or conveys a message you hadn’t intended.
These shirts about OCD, about suicide of all things, about mental health, they don’t serve as dark humor, because they aren’t made by people who are suffering from the conditions. Because they’re not finding humor out of it in a dark, twisted way. They’re just making fun of the condition itself.
Yeah, you can put a whole lot of words into the acronym of OCD. But do you find people doing that for cystic fibrosis? For the hundreds of cancers out there? Because I don’t.
And it would have to be a comparatively similar amount, because there are a LOT of jokes out there that people make about OCD, suicide, mental health and self-harm. There are a LOT of people out there who use stigma ahead of understanding, who use ill will ahead of compassion, who use judgment ahead of empathy.
There are people coming forward every day who are disclosing and opening up about their struggles with mental health conditions. Why? Because it is STILL a subject so closed off and not talked about in ALL societies across the globe. This isn’t just an American problem. This is a worldwide issue.
Some Internet users like to tell others to “kill (yourself)” or “KYS”. Some Internet users like to call out people discussing suicide openly and accuse them with the misconception that they are “attention seeking.”
Some Internet users like to say that people who discuss their self-harm are “attention seeking,” that “you wouldn’t be telling the Internet if you were really doing it.”
Some Internet users egg others on to hurting themselves. Some of them take pleasure in other people’s pain. Some of them are just naive. Some of them feel that the screen puts enough distance between themselves and the words they type upon the screen to the other receiver.
And then there are some people who act and communicate with compassion, kindness, empathy and concern. These are the people who ask questions, who engage with the receiver expressing their pain, who understand because they’ve been there too or they’ve known someone who has or they’ve lost someone to suicide. These are the kindhearted people who speak OUT and UP for these mental health related issues. They don’t hide in the shadows, they make their blogs, they write their posts, they are as comfortable as they can be while also fearful, sometimes, of the backlash that may come their way.
Because it’s not easy to stick up for what you believe in. It’s not easy to step away from the shadows and declare change for something everyone else seems to take lightly, take innocently and take as if WE are the ones with additional problems. As if WE are the ones who can’t handle the world, when really, it’s so often that the world cannot seem to handle us or knows how to interact with us. That is, our compassionate selves are more aware of how potential “jokes” can be taken into negative space with another individual who is suffering with what we suffer with. That’s called looking out for people. Befriending. Not being overly sensitive, not being a pussy, not whining or bitching or complaining.
That’s being a good person. That’s having humanity and the decency to act accordingly in line with our values.
We don’t hurl insults back at those insulting us. But we don’t take the bullshit either. We grow in strength in our numbers because we inspire more and more people to put up their fists and open their mouths against the bullshit in society.
We aid. We help. We are not alone. Together, we can make changes.
In this way, now, you may be able to understand that I don’t find the OCD merchandise funny. It may be for you, if you struggle with it too (or even if you don’t). But from my perspective it’s not funny.
The OCD I live with isn’t about ‘obsessing’ over Christmas or cleaning or organization or anything in that realm. It’s not about obsessive chickens or caterpillars, cats, or any other letter you can squish into the category–and no, it’s not CDO either. And it’s not crooked or anything like that.
The OCD I live with involves the focus on self-harm and suicide obsessions. The OCD I live with makes me want to kill myself.
Because this is the Internet, it may be funny to you. You may feel inclined to tell me to “follow through with it” if I think about suicide so much. And, I’m not going to listen to you, because I hear that from my brain enough times a day.
Instead, I’m going to look out for the people out there who feel the same as I do. The people who hurt because they too feel as though they are being belittled by a group of marketers who just want to make money off a disorder they may think is quirky or hilarious, or at least, perpetuates such ideals onto the customers who may or may not purchase it.
Now, if you donated that money you’re making off those shirts to an OCD campaign? That’s a different story. But I’m thinking that’s not happening. So the offense and the anger persists.
I also want to say that joking about suicide, online and off, isn’t funny either. You may think that mock shooting yourself in the head is funny, well, it’s not. For me and people like me, we think about suicide on the daily basis. It’s not something to laugh about. It’s a serious set of circumstances because, guess what, people die from it. And once you’re dead, you’re pretty much going to stay dead. Forever.
And these are people with families, with friends, acquaintances. These are people you pass in the hallway at university, the people you work alongside, the people aching in the corner of the room. These are people who wear a smile on their faces. These are people who cry publicly, where no one seems to notice.
These are people who know the resources available or who don’t have a clue. These are people who have been hospitalized before, or never, who take their medications or who recently went off them. These are people with talents and skills, humor and compassion. These are people who may have been assholes (hey, not everyone’s nice) but once the suicide occurred?
They’re another statistic, another loss of life, another person we all could have bettered from knowing.
Suicide is the loss of life where a person could have gone on and found hope, worth and love. Where they could have recovered or been in recovery. Where they could have made a difference within their life rather than after they had passed.
Okay, so I took a break for a while, but I think I’ve said as much as I need to say. For the ending of this post, remember that there are hotlines you can call wherever you are in the world and there is information out there that you can find regarding learning about health conditions and suicide/self-harm. And there’s good music about suicide prevention and fun stuff too. 🙂
Take care peeps, bless you all and I hope this piece was good!
❤ ❤ ❤