Monday, October 10, 2016

Things That Are Not Funny

Trigger warning for discussion of suicide and depression. 
So, given recent events that have been well covered elsewhere, there's been a lot of talk about what is and isn't funny with regards to jokes about suicide. Interrobang did a great job recapping both the inciting incident, if you will, as well as the backlash aimed at various people for essentially saying, hey, jokes about suicide are not funny.  
So, here's what I have to add to this.  I know now (not like as of a few days ago, like at this point in my life) that jokes about suicide are not funny. I did not always know this, the way that I knew some other things were not joking matters.  It took me a while to get there.  I did not know this as a teenager, nor even as an early adult. And here's what happens when you don't know. I made a snarky comment. I could repeat it, but that would only cause more harm.  Suffice it to say it was callous and lacking in empathy, and not anything I should have said even to a close friend sitting in a living room.  And then, I later discovered that this same close friend had attempted suicide.  Not because of my comment. In their past, before my comment.  But the reason this friend didn't share this experience with me, is likely because I was that person who made snarky comments about suicide.  And I shouldn't have needed an up close and personal example of what suicide and depression could have taken from me to be empathetic.  
People often say this about other things, and I certainly know that I often tell people stories about others, or talk about a thing that happened to a celebrity and am sometimes surprised at the response I get. But people are listening, and when they have a thing to share, sometimes it is more important that you be the friend who showed sympathy or empathy.  When I relate a story about reality TV, I'm not thinking in my head this is a friend test, let's see what they say.  But those reactions and things stick with you.  
We talk a lot these days about unpacking privilege, and mental health privilege was one it took me personally longer to unpack.  So, yes, it does matter when people make flippant jokes about suicide.  It does matter when we make that acceptable.  It is not.  I'm sorry to my friends who had to wait for me to catch up on that.  
And if you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out for help. 
Katherine Locke has some great resources on her tumblr here, including: 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Hopeline Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

Hopeline for Veterans: 1-877-838-2838

For Young People who are LGBTQIA, The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

For Post Partum Depression: 1-800-773-6667