Opinion: My mental health is not your punchline

This week, I was scrolling aimlessly through my Twitter feed in-between classes,  my go-to activity when faced with awkward breaks of no instruction. As my finger moved a million miles an hour past pictures of Kim Kardashian, stories of Donald Trump’s latest antics and what celebrities wore at the Golden Globes, there was one tweet that caught my eye.

One of my friends whom I have known since the middle school tweeted the following: “*crosses fingers* *prays* *starves self*”

Although I’m not sure what she was so eager for that she was willing to tease at such drastic measures, it marked yet another frustrating moment for the mental health community, as specific mental health conditions were trivialized and ridiculed to everyday speech.

While I have to admit that I do not get upset often, one of the things that sends my pulse beating is when I see mental disorders as a punchline to a joke, thus normalizing circumstances that people lose their lives after.

Nobody would ever throw around physical diseases such as cancer or heart disease around because they know how serious the emotional, physical and social effects that the disease wrecks on the patient and loved ones. Yet since a mental health issue is not visible and is often unspoken, people see it as a prairie for content for their offensive jokes.

What’s more, the normalization of mental health concerns into everyday speech occurs more often than what is necessary. Frustrated fangirls who do not get the concert tickets to their favorite artist’s tour will often throw around terms such as “I’m going to kill myself if I don’t get tickets for _____________” or “I’m so depressed I didn’t get this.” People who are anxious for prom night will often say “I’m going to starve myself in order to fit into my Sherri Hill gown.”

The appropriation of such terms maps directly onto the stigmas surrounding prevention efforts towards mental health challenges. By making fun of the circumstances that people face daily, an unsafe environment is created in which the patient will feel uncomfortable and hesitant to ask for help.

Be aware: there is a significant difference between the words “sad” and “depressed.” Depressed is a mood disorder marked by long periods of inactivity, loss of interest in former pleasures, and an overwhelming persistence of sadness. Saying that you are depressed because One Direction broke up or you wanted Chik- fil-A on a Sunday is not depression, and it causes people to assume that depression is something people can weave in and out of based on their circumstances. For people suffering with depression, this is the last thing they need.

One day, I hope to witness the day where the stigmas surrounding counseling, therapy, and asking for help in regards to mental health are abolished. I dream of the day where people of all genders, races, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds will be able to receive the mental health treatment that they need with specific consideration to their culture and needs. However, such progress is impeded by the gross colloquialization of the struggles people face, and it’s up to us to stop it.

It’s on us. Are we ready to (lovingly) call people out when they appropriate mental health terms for their trivialized circumstances, or will we stay silent?