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‘Humour’, Suicide and Mental Illness

Posted Sep 07 2010 3:53pm

I can’t be arsed getting overly analytical on this, but tonight I’ve been reading the archives of an brilliantly written and mature blog from a girl, Mariah, (a young woman now, about 18 if my maths isn’t fucking with me) who lost her best friend to suicide, and in the wake thereof almost killed herself.  She no longer maintains the blog (happily due to feeling positive enough to no longer need it), but the archives are definitely worth a read over at The Suicide List .

One thing Mariah has done extensively throughout the blog is draw attention to supposedly humourous articles and pictures that mock suicide and issues relating to it.  Not that she finds them funny; she finds them unspeakably ill-informed and offensive.  Some of the stuff is in nearly in the ‘Dr T’ league of outrageous, but – and I am ashamed to admit this – there were some things she’d listed that I actually found really funny :-/

For example:

Suicide is the absolute and irreversible pwnage of one’s self IRL…It is the equivalent of flipping over the Monopoly board. Contrary to popular belief, this also stops you from posting online.

(I’m not sourcing the link for the above, because some of the material therein is grossly offensive, ignorant bollocks, and indeed is possibly triggering.  But the above paragraph actually made me laugh out loud).

I have a dark and twisted sense of humour – as most of my regular readers probably know – and I don’t make any apology for it particularly.  Mental or otherwise, suicidal or otherwise, I often do find the ‘humour’ surrounding these issues – whether originally borne out of stigma, ignorance or something else entirely – to be amusing.  Yet when I hear people in the pub or on a bus or something ripping the piss out of mentalism, I want to go over to them and smash their faces in.

A gay friend of mine (not Daniel nor Aaron – let’s call him Pete) once told me that he found a lot of piss-taking of gay and lesbian people to be funny, because it was ‘alright’ for him to think that.  When I sought clarification on his meaning, he told me that as I am heterosexual, I didn’t have any right to ‘claim’ such humour, but that he as a homosexual did.  I enquired as to whether or not Pete saw the hypocrisy of this; ‘one rule for me, one for everyone else’.  He waved a hand dismissively and changed the subject.

Am I the very thing that I derided in the previous paragraph?  Or is it genuinely more ‘OK’ for the mentally ill amongst us to poke fun at our conditions and their symptoms, prognoses etc than everyone else, merely because we understand the issues better?  In that regard, was Pete not a hypocrite – did he simply understand gay issues more than the likes of me ever could?

Do the jokes of those not within the specific demographic represented in a punchline make the jokers ignorant or stigmatising?  Or can they too – at least in some cases – understand the issues about which they joke, and wish to laugh with us and not at us, in whatever blithe or morose kind of fashion that that may be?

If we (or I) can find justification for finding certain dark things amusing, where do we draw the line between irreverent, near-the-knuckle humour and defiling, potentially damaging, offensiveness?

This is mostly rhetorical, and I doubt I’ll ever have any answers.  Still, if you have any thoughts, enquiring minds (and this one) would be glad to hear them.

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