Disparaging humor causes mental health damage

By Stephanie Lingenfelter
Editor in Chief

Offensive memes about things like suicide, sexual harassment and disabilities are found all over social media. Jokes are heard daily in public places, while “kill myself” (kms) has become a popular slang term. This is known as disparagement humor, which is remarks that intend to belittle a certain person or group because of things like race, gender, sexual orientation and mental health. This humor is desensitizing people and making them more accustomed to horrors, such as suicide, and perpetuating issues like racism. While some find the humor enjoyable, it is causing serious mental issues and allowing false stereotypes to live on.

Most people who are using disparaging humor don’t actually mean it, but they also have no idea what it’s like to be someone in the situation they are mocking. There might be some people who just laugh it off and don’t really mind, but then there are others who it really bothers and hurts mentally.

Walking down the halls and sitting in class, you hear things like, “I’m going to kill myself,” regularly. It’s all over social media, it’s in texts, it’s everywhere and almost everyone is guilty of saying something like that jokingly.

The problem with this is it normalizes suicide and makes it nearly impossible to tell the difference between someone suicidal and someone joking. According to Reuters, a study done in London discovered one in 12 people self harm, most of them being girls. According to the World Health Organization, 3,000 people commit suicide daily because of things like bullying and feeling misunderstood.

Those 3,000 people are not jokes. Their struggle, their life, that’s not a joke.
Sexist jokes are leading to more gender inequality. In a study done by Thomas Ford, men donated 80 percent less to an imaginary women’s organization after hearing sexist jokes, even though they knew it was imaginary. According to rajsivaraman.wordpress.com, another study showed if someone were to hear sexist jokes before hiring employees, they were much less likely to choose a female.

The same source also demonstrated how rape jokes have lead to increased blame attached to victims of rape, increased acceptance of desire to rape, decreased view of rape as a serious problem and decreased desire to punish rapists. According to RAINN, an American is raped every 98 seconds and one in six women and one in 33 men have been sexually assaulted. Of those women, 33 percent have attempted suicide. We need to work to bring those numbers down, but insensitive jokes are causing them to increase.

Members of the LGBTQ community deal with a lot of hate, one of those ways being insensitive jokes. According to the Conversation, when some heterosexual people heard the word “fag,” they showed an increased negative attitude towards LGBTQ. Someone’s sexual orientation is their business and there’s no need to make fun of them because of it. The Conversation also noted if a LGBTQ member sees something making fun of people in their community, they are more likely to stay in the closet and not be who they are. LGBTQ members are exposed to disparaging humor daily. That could be one of the factors into why, according to Mental Health America, only 37 percent of LGBTQ youth feel happy compared to 67 percent of non-LGBTQ youth.

Everyone is guilty of saying or laughing at disparaging jokes and that doesn’t mean everyone is a bad person. Instead, it shows we need to be more sensitive and understanding as a society. Mental health isn’t taken as seriously as it should be and these insensitive jokes are making the false stigma worse.
According to Voices of Youth, people with serious mental problems avoid seeking help because of all the jokes people make about it. As stated in a Psychology Today article, “Jokes have power—great power. When our intent is to malign, a joke becomes more than an offhand remark; it becomes a weapon.”

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