May 312013
Mental illness

Individuals with mental illnesses are portrayed negatively in public. Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/

Most of us love to laugh. We laugh at the silly little things we do when we have a temporary lapse of judgment. We laugh at our pets when they do something cute.

We also laugh at reports from the news media and the social networking sites regarding the mentally ill (including dementia).

It’s okay to laugh and it’s even healthy for us, but at times it’s not okay. It’s not okay to laugh at the people with mental illness.

Do you laugh at people when you see them dressed ‘funny’ out in public? Do you make fun of their odd behaviors? Maybe you thought that woman with a bald spot on her head was a laughing matter (trichotillomania).

Some things that people think are funny are actually the struggles of individuals with mental illness (mental disorders). That is no laughing matter.

People with mental illnesses are not always cognizant of their actions. Other individuals with mental illnesses are aware but they cannot control their behaviors or thoughts.

The innocuous people with mental illnesses that are not a threat to others can be charged with trivial annoyances. They are publicly humiliated (e.g., walking around without clothes or behaving in a strange way). This is when they are laughed at. People think it’s funny.

Public laughing at mental illness

Unfortunately, it makes it in the public news. Apparently, it’s funny to see a person doing something that’s not socially acceptable.

The news sources will report incidences of people with odd behavior, just for laughs. Even when it is obvious the person is mentally ill. This tactic is to gain viewers for popularity, it draws in the viewers.

They will publicly humiliate this vulnerable person for entertainment purposes.

Therefore, you can say the news sources extorts the vulnerable population arbitrarily to make a profit. It is justified in the guise of entertainment purposes.

Throughout the years, mental illnesses have been misunderstood by the general population. This lack of understanding led to a disdain, which apparently justified the poor treatments given. These treatments included (but were not limited to) institutionalization, being locked in a basement and many times they were even tortured.

While our society has come a long way in the treatments given to the mentally ill, we still have a long way to go. We still ‘laugh’ at them.

Where do we draw the line? Are we so insensitive to people with mental illness that we enjoy seeing their struggles?

What if that person on the news was your mother, brother or child? Would you think it was funny then?

Always remember, it’s only funny if the other person is laughing with you.

Great article: Mental Illness is No Laughing Matter