Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Comedy Sketch Encourages Stigma Towards Mental Illness?

Ofcom are investigating a complaint made by Rethink about a sketch on Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights programme on Channel Four. Rethink does not make a habit of criticising  comedy shows...

Back in December 2010, mental health charity Rethink lodged a complaint with Ofcom over a Frankie Boyle sketch shown on the Channel 4 show Tramadol Nights.

This has not been the only complaint made to Ofcom about Boyle's Channel 4 show, he is also under fire from AIDS and cancer charities over his television show.

The sketch parodies Time to Change's fake film trailer for a horror film called Schizo (which can be viewed in this previous blog post). The "Schizo trailer" ultimately shows someone with schizophrenia talking about their experiences while making tea in his kitchen.

In the Boyle sketch a man says he has mental health problems and comments on the stigma surrounding mental illness. The camera then pans down to show four children dead and covered in blood.

There was a time long gone when I used to laugh at Boyle's humor - now I feel all he is doing is trying to shock, which will inevitably encourage ignorance and stigma.

I have heard it argued that Boyle's humor is "done with irony" and "if you don't see that, you don't understand his humor". But, surely if others do not see the "ironic-humor", then there must be those who find Boyle humorous but see no irony and their laughs derive from prejudice and holding views of stigma towards mental illness!

The sketch could also be defended by calling it "satire". But I can use the same argument as above; too many are ignorant of subjects such as mental illness and will therefore fail to see the "satire", and will, mistakenly, see the sketch as "depicting the truth."

Unfortunately, the comedy sketch reinforces the myth that mental illness causes a sufferer to be violent; which of course is not true.

Mark Davies, Rethink's director of communications, in a letter to Ofcom said: "There is no causal link between mental illness and violence. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than  the perpetrators of violence.

"By inferring that people with mental illness are violent, the Frankie Boyle sketch was misleading. One in four people have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. This sketch caused offence to many people in this group."

Speaking as someone with a mental disorder, it worries me that laughs are being derived from the ignorance   in believing there is a causal link between violence and mental health problems. It worries me that Boyle's sketch could help to reinforce stigma towards mental illness.

What do you think?

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