Mental Health Isn’t a Joke

People are desensitizing themselves to the realities of mental health illness and it needs to stop.


Mariam Keita, Reporter

Tell me you haven’t experienced something like this before: You and a friend are at lunch complaining about the unreasonable price of a single slice of pizza.

“Why does it cost so much?” they question, aggravated. “I’m so triggered.”

According to, a ‘trigger’ is something that sets off a memory or flashback transporting a person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

Using the word triggered when you do not have any actual triggers is not only ugly and insensitive, but completely disrespectful. There is no justification for the blatant ridicule of the side effects of a mental health illness.  Using the word ‘triggered’ as a joke is unacceptable. People no longer care, if they ever did, that there are those among them who struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

“[Triggered] still to me holds value.” said Elizabeth Rook, an iJAG educator at City who is currently teaching a mental health unit. “For somebody to say…this thing that’s happening is triggering my emotions in some way is like a valuable term and we should not devalue it…Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder all kinds of other things that we really should be working to address.”

Mental health is not a joke. It is not something to be taken lightly, brushed away or mocked. I for one am sick of not being able to have a conversation with a person my age without that person feeling compelled to conversationally refer to themselves as being ‘triggered’.  I am exhausted by the use of words such as ‘bipolar’ and ‘depressed’ as casual adjectives. Not only is using these words so negligently ableist and insensitive, but it’s an insult to anyone who is affected by anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or any number of other legitimate mental health disorders.

When someone has the flu, we don’t mock them for not being able to hold down food. Why do we as a society think it is acceptable to scorn those who can’t withstand certain societal normalities? Why do we continue to delegitimize mental health triggers? What is humorous about a domestic abuse victim having to relive the memory of a fist flying at her face? A war veteran having to undergo flashbacks of his friends being torn apart by shrapnel? What kind of sick and apathetic creatures have we evolved into that we take pleasure in the alienation and otherization of those who most need our support?

The English language is an expansive one, containing thousands upon thousands of words that don’t invalidate the fragility of major mental ailments. For example, instead of triggered, one could say that they were exasperated, chagrined, annoyed, perplexed, peeved, vexed, disgruntled, piqued, riled, galled — and the list doesn’t end there.

The way I see it, those who use the word so nonchalantly not only need to seek help in nursing their stunted sense of compassion back to health, but also need to consider closely why they feel the need to use the word in the first place. I suppose having low self-esteem or being socially inept would be a pretense, albeit a shaky one, to ostracize those who struggle to walk through life upright. I would also suppose that these same people take pleasure in kicking puppies and pushing small children in front of moving cars.

Actually that’s not fair, I’m sure there are those that may just be ignorant as to the weight and nature of the word. These people may not know that 20%  of young people live with a mental health condition and that most of those people go undiagnosed. There are those out there who saw the meme on some social media platform, thought it was funny, and decided to use the destructive 9-letter word.

Some will attempt to detract from this argument by saying that I’m just another butt-hurt, liberal crybaby, that the world is a cruel place and I shouldn’t expect to be sheltered from the harsh realities of the world. That the first amendment protects them from the consequences of slandering their peers. That using the word leisurely or abstaining from it doesn’t matter one way or the other.

My response to them would be this:

It’s not as if I don’t know what’s out there. I know the world is hard, I know that bad things happen all the time. I just think that if people spent as much time addressing mental illnesses and their sufferers as whole and real as they did belittling them, perhaps I wouldn’t have to waste my words and time on people who won’t care either way.

Using the word ‘triggered’ when you do not have any actual mental health impediments is not only ugly and insensitive, but it is completely disrespectful. If you feel the need to use the word ‘triggered’ on a regular basis, please don’t present yourself to the masses as a decent person. Using the word ‘triggered’ as a joke should not be tolerated.