You really don’t need to look very far to find sanism. Mental health discrimination is so pervasive that no one really recognizes that it exists in the blatant way that it does. But, can something be discriminatory and acceptable at the same time? Think along the lines of only Black people being able to say the word “nigger” (while still keeping in mind the countless Black individuals who rightfully despise that word or any variation and don’t want it used at all).
I found two beer coolers at the dollarstore two weeks ago…
I had a strong mix of “Ha ha that’s great” and “Screw whoever made these and whoever buys them!”
If I owned one of these beer coolers either one of these would be funny. My mental health past and present turn these sayings into funny mental health humour. I do believe in laughing at myself and if I did not do so then I would be a sad mess. So, “You say psycho like it’s a bad thing.” and “My goal in life is to have a psychiatric disorder named after me.” are two phrases that I would laugh at if I or my mental health friends had them on their beer coolers. It’s funny because of the truth it holds in our lives as people with mental health issues and the deep understanding we have about where mental health humour can go amongst our community.
On the other hand if a person without mental health experience used these beer coolers I would not laugh at all and be horrified at their participation in stigma and discrimination (most likely unknowingly because that’s how sanism works). These “normal” people don’t know what it’s life to be called a psycho and don’t have an understanding of the consequences psychiatric disorders come with (and also that majority of psychiatric disorders aren’t named after anyone, but I digress).
So, I guess the question is: can stigma and discrimination ever be funny? Can it ever be acceptable?
For the sake of fairness that answer should be no. It should never be funny and it should never be acceptable. We will always find ways to justify when we do make jokes and when we accept it but I believe it is always important to keep in mind how we may help or hinder the mental health community. I never want any of us to lose our sense of humour and our ability to laugh at ourselves and our experience and if anything this is a lesson in the importance of context.
What do you all think?