There’s a Time for Help

Some people believe that “dark humor” is the way to bridge the gap between those who are suffering from mental illnesses and those who aren’t. This type of humor does not do anything to help the stigma of mental illness, and, if anything, it hurts the movement to destigmatize mental health issues by making mental health itself a joke. It belittles the people who suffer from mental health issues, and it puts a false idea in people’s heads regarding the true nature of mental illness.

Mental health is too important of an issue to consistently push it aside in the interest of making jokes. Building one’s sense of humor or personality around the idea of making dark commentary or jokes about others’ mental state crosses a line. While all dark humor is not wrong, creating a personality centered around dark humor is. To center one’s personality around the misfortune of others is cruel and, frankly, just plain annoying. No one wants to be around a person who is constantly making offensive jokes and feeding on the shock they receive. Humor should not be the foundation for a personality. It can be a facet, but it should not be the core.

Humor is a tricky subject to regulate because it is extremely subjective. Ultimately, it is about knowing one’s audience and limiting the extent to which a joke or comment belittles another person. Making a joke about a car crash would not be funny to someone who has a personal experience with one. People who have lost loved ones in a car accident, survived one themselves or even simply witnessed one would likely be put off by a joke made in bad taste. However, it might be funny to other people who have never had experience with a car crash, because they do not have emotions or bad memories associated with it. Humor is entirely subjective to the audience receiving it.

Dark humor is not universally wrong. It can be used to bond over a troubling issue or deepen a connection between two people who have suffered. But when a person’s entire sense of humor is based around making fun of mental illnesses, thriving on the shock factor of a dark joke, and making light of serious issues within marginalized communities, that person’s sense of humor devolves into a sense of cruelty. A personality based entirely around one source of humor is shallow and static, and static personalities are far less likely to be universally appreciated.

It is wrong to stigmatize other people’s problems. It is wrong to actively seek to diminish their happiness. It is wrong to be insensitive to the fears and insecurities from which entire communities suffer. The way to avoid this is simple – don’t centralize your personality around one thing. A personality needs much more than just a sense of humor to actually be a personality. People with simplistic and cruel personalities do not positively contribute to anyone’s well-being – not even their own.

The argument that people who are offended by dark humor should “just get over it” does nothing to foster a productive discussion about the topic. Disregarding other viewpoints on an issue prevents growth and change, which is never a good thing. To completely ignore the voices of others, and to stay stagnant on your own beliefs, limits your potential as a person to change and to better yourself. Opening a discussion about why a person uses dark humor, and why a person is uncomfortable with dark humor, can help a person become better.