Mental Illness is No Laughing Matter

How the church can better respond to individuals suffering in darkness

Throughout history, mental illness has met with confusion, misunderstanding and mistreatment—even horror, persecution and torture. Though we have made progress in fits and starts, people with mental illness have never had more hope for productive life than they have now. But despite the progress, we live in a society that is still deeply confused about mental illness.

Misinformed by the media

Have you ever paid attention to the way people with mental illness are portrayed in popular media? While some outlets treat mental illness with honesty and sensitivity, most of popular media treats the mentally ill as frightening, funny, or both. Most people don't seem to give it a second thought, but for people whose loved ones suffer from ongoing mental illness, such portrayals are hard to ignore.

Try watching movies like Psycho, Strange Brew, Crazy People, The Shining, Misery, and Fatal Attraction through the eyes of someone who struggles with mental illness. Or turn on the TV this week and watch with a new perspective. On any given evening, you should be able to find at least one show that either reinforces terror of the mentally ill, or makes light of their illness for a cheap laugh.

Misinformation, as well as entertainment that pokes fun at people with mental illness—and in some cases encourages laughter at the idea of their mistreatment—accomplishes three things:

  1. It further marginalizes and dehumanizes people with mental illness by treating them as caricatures. It's easy to laugh if we forget we're laughing at real people suffering from real illnesses.
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Amy Simpson

Amy Simpson is the managing editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today's Christian Woman and the editor of Connect with Amy at

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