Take mental health seriously

I like to laugh. There are lots of jokes people can tell. I like to tell them, and I like to hear them. But sometimes people joke about things like gender or sexuality or race. A lot of times I think we laugh in order to deal with things that are uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Sometimes these jokes are offensive, and I stop them. However, a lot of the time, there is just a lot of ignorance to fight, and it is too much to stop everything, especially when we all deal some of it out ourselves.

Yet, when I see the display at Snack Bar to “Break the Silence” surrounding mental illness, and it says that one of the best ways to cope with depression and anxiety is to “spank the monkey” or to “beat off,” I realize that I can’t let ignorance get off so easily.

No pun intended.


I don’t want to discuss the merits of masturbation here, but I think it goes without saying that depression and anxiety are serious issues – ones that are far too serious to be subjects of dick jokes. Without the support of the health center and my friends, depression could easily have taken my life. I do not mean that lightheartedly.

Now, I would like nothing more than for people who suffer from mental disorders to get the care they need – and deserve. However, if this is how “silence” is broken, I miss the quiet.
The campaign to end stigma for mental illness is a noble cause, but it seems that it’s doing more harm than good. Yes, there is a lot that needs to be done in this area, especially here at Williams, but these are not the ways to go about it. These are serious issues, ones that should be addressed with thoughtfulness and the utmost care. It seems that, instead, we are replacing a silent stigma with overt ridicule.

I mean not to demean those who spend time with this campaign, but please take caution not to demean what I deal with – along with many others who face the same issues.
I love a good laugh, but the joke on the cards is not funny.

Even if intentions of those who wrote those cards were good, it should be obvious that this is inappropriate. This was, I think, a time for people who suffer from mental illness to understand that there is support out there. For those who want to be free to write (and draw) about masturbation, this is not your time. So, until that time comes, save it for your room.

Christopher Holland ’11

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