What can some of the world’s funniest people teach us about one of the hardest subjects to talk about? In the face of many of their colleagues’ deaths by suicide, eleven of the funniest people in comedy today, from Sarah Silverman, Wayne Brady, to Chris Gethard, are here to let us in on their own experiences with anxiety and depression. Their perspective could help change your life or the life of a loved one, too!
At this very moment, there are hundreds of millions of people around the globe living their lives with a mental disorder. I am—you may be one of them too; or maybe your brother, aunt, best friend, or partner is. But you may never really know because according to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1, nearly two-thirds of individuals with a mental illness will never seek help. But why is this?
By opening up about their own journeys with mental illness, these well-known comedians are helping us do the same and unlock a door to a future without stigma. In this documentary, they remind us that we can all help make the world better for each other when we learn and talk more about what’s happening in our minds.
“Comedy is a way to translate your darkest thoughts into a form that gives them a little less power”— Aparna Nancherla, Comedian
Although it’s still an amazing world, that doesn’t stop it from feeling bleak at times. Everything can seem to be going right for you: a great house, loving partner, supportive job. But if you’re struggling with a mental illness like anxiety or depression, there’s a cloud that covers the sun and drags you down. It’s hard, sometimes nearly impossible to leave the house, care about work, want to see friends, or even shower.
These illnesses can remain hidden and untreated for years—even lifetimes. Unfortunately, the US Department of Health & Human Services estimates “that about 60 percent of people who commit suicide have had a mood disorder”. 2
So, why is this? When there has been so much progress in treatments for these disorders in recent decades that allow relief and management 3, what’s holding so many back from getting help? And what can those of us (currently) without a mental disorder do in support?
Why we need comedy!
Comedy isn’t just about making us laugh, it’s also a great outlet for people to talk about difficult problems like mental health and share their own stories. We connect to comedians. So, it makes sense that they’re helping to lead the charge when it comes to changing the stigma around talking about mental health and asking for help.
With the hope to reduce the stigma and help people understand and recognize some of the symptoms, these comedians are lifting the curtain on how we can take better care of ourselves and the people around us.
Hear what they have to say in the short documentary Laughing Matters from SoulPancake, directed by Mike Bernstein:
** Video contains mention of suicide with a few swear words thrown in.
To hear other comedians and well-known people discuss their journeys with mental illness, I highly suggest you check out the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression. For years they’ve been one of my go-to shows and every time I leave an episode I feel a bit lighter and less alone.
If you’re struggling, please text HELLO to 741741 or call 1-800-273-8255
You can also chat instantly and directly with someone online by using this form from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Every time someone opens up about their journey they make it okay for another person to do the same.
Like anything, people wear their mental health differently; another person’s depression isn’t going to look like mine. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here—there never is with mental health. But allowing space to talk about it is something that can benefit everyone.
When we share our stories and listen to those of others, we change the world a little bit at a time.
Finding ourselves in these tales helps us realize that while what’s happening in our head feels like a burden just on our shoulders, we don’t have to carry the weight alone. It isn’t required. There are people who know what you feel, who are there or have been there before.
But I can’t pretend that these conversations are easy to have.
Realizing and even admitting that you have a mental illness can be hard in itself. And being a supportive listener, particularly if you’ve never experienced a mental illness, is a whole other story.
The “Make It OK” campaign (who is actually a support of the podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression) is a fantastic resource to find out the best things to say when a loved one opens up to you about their mental health. Click here to read their “what to say and don’t say” tips.
Stay open to new possibilities! You never know the impact a few words can have.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein
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- “WHO | Mental Disorders Affect One in Four People.” Who.Int, 29 July 2013, www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/, /entity/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/index.html. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020. ↩
- Digital Communications Division (DCD. “Does Depression Increase the Risk for Suicide?” HHS.Gov, 8 June 2015, www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/does-depression-increase-risk-of-suicide/index.html. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020. ↩
- “History of Mental Health Treatment | Dual Diagnosis.” Dual Diagnosis, 2014, dualdiagnosis.org/mental-health-and-addiction/history/. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020. ↩
- SoulPancake. “Comedians Tackling Depression & Anxiety Makes Us Feel Seen | Laughing Matters | Documentary.” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBV-7_qGlr4&feature=youtu.be. Accessed 6 Feb. 2020. ↩