Can We Joke About Mental Health?

Can We Joke About Mental Health?

I was very fortunate to be invited to Dave Chawner’s comedy show, Mental, at Edinburgh Fringe this year. The premise of his show caught my attention; I was interested how he would approach what is still a touchy subject to some, and make us all laugh.

Some people don’t want to have long, serious discussions about their mental health. It’s an issue that deserves attention; but a tearful revelation isn’t for everyone. I’ve found joking about my mental health occasionally eases the tension, and people around me breathe a sigh of relief. People think that when you have a mental illness you just can’t laugh any more. This is far from the truth. For many, laughter helps alleviate the tragedy of what we’re dealing with every day.

Dave’s message was clear; when we’re laughing, we’re listening. And he made some very important points about men’s mental health, stigma, and recovery. All while making us laugh with anecdotes and funny observations about how mental health is reflected in the media and modern times. I really enjoyed his self-depreciated, sometimes dark humour – that’s definitely my style of comedy.

Dave’s jokes were relatable to anyone suffering with a mental illness, but they were also powerful, and held an underlying message without being preachy. Often during his set the audience would be nodding in agreement with whatever point he was making about mental health.

I realised how far we’d come; for a show like this to even be a thing. Dave was open, he wasn’t afraid to tell us anything. He laughed at himself; he laughed at the people around him. This was his recovery process. And it was working.

As someone who suffers with mental illness and writes about my experiences, I’ve learnt through connecting with similar people online that I don’t always get it right. That people can view the same subject in completely different ways, and perspective matters.

I’m not a psychologist (although Dave’s girlfriend is; and she gets both sweet and hilarious mentions throughout his show). My personal experience can only give me so much knowledge about my condition; the rest is up for debate. I can honestly say there were many points during his show where he changed my mind about various generalisations surrounding mental health. And that was his goal – to get people to listen. Openness about mental health is important and I would argue that as long as positive awareness is achieved, it shouldn’t matter how you get that point across.

After the show ended I left the venue in front of two older ladies, and one of them said to the other “He’s funny, but he’s right. We don’t really know what to say, do we?”. I could have burst with pride. To some, it’s just a bit of stand up comedy, but in my mind – Dave is making such a positive impact on the community. I know from how I felt afterwards and from overhearing that conversation that he changed at least 3 peoples minds that night; how many more will follow during his run at Fringe this year?

 

mental health jokes comedian stand up edinburgh fringe festival dave chawner

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4 Comments

  1. August 4, 2019 / 5:23 pm

    I think it’s so important to make light of a dark situation, and as long as we’re laughing with someone and not at the them I personally don’t see an issue! Great post, just given you a follow so can’t wait to see more from you! 🙂 x

  2. September 17, 2019 / 1:17 pm

    I love comedians like this as they’re not afraid to approach a dark subject. I especially love the comment about how when we’re laughing we’re listening. It’s so true and I think using humour is a good way to break the ice and get people talking about mental health. Having said that, I think it’s important to know when to shop and to make sure you’re laughing with someone rather than at them. Really enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing!

    • Zoe
      Author
      September 17, 2019 / 1:53 pm

      I think it’s great that everyone has a different way of talking about and coping with their mental health, and humour shouldn’t be ruled out. I agree it’s important to know when that crosses the line – Dave did a great job of making everyone laugh and feel relaxed and it opened up discussions after the show. I would definitely recommend seeing him perform if you ever get the chance!

  3. September 17, 2019 / 5:54 pm

    Really important post! I imagine there’s been such a blanket ban approach to mental health-related humour because often the first thought or actual experience is that it is/has been mocking and abusive in nature. It is lovely that space is being opened up for this kind of humour and people feel able to be part of it.
    Many thanks,
    Spence 😁

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