I am quite excited to welcome the lovely Vlora from Reviews and Cake to #ShatteringStigmas today! Vlora is kind of the best, so if you didn’t already know…. now you do 😀 She’s got a great discussion for us, so let’s do this! 


Vlora’s Post

First of all, thanks to the hosts for making Shattering Stigmas possible! It impacted my life for the better last year, so I decided I had to participate again this time. When I thought about the books discussing mental health that I’ve read, there was one thing that made some of them stand out for me: humor. Taking something as serious as mental health and mixing it with humor can have either disastrous or wonderful results, but one thing is for sure: it’s often controversial, which is why I’m interested in your opinion!

Personally, I love humor in books, and that extends to books in which the characters struggle with mental health issues. I do however understand how this can be considered insensitive if it isn’t done right, or readers feel like it was done in a disrespectful way. The books that immediately came to my mind for this topic were The Rosie Project and Finding Audrey. I’ve seen both books discussed controversially. For example, I felt that the humor in The Rosie Project wasn’t really disrespectful to the protagonist, even when it was a result of him not understanding social cues, but a lot of people felt the exact opposite was true, and I understood their points as well. I don’t want to discuss these particular books, but they’re one example for how different readers perceive this issue differently.

I often make stupid jokes about serious things, because that is how I deal with the world, but, like everyone, I have a line and can get offended at others’ attempts to do the same. For me, the question isn’t whether humor and serious issues, like mental health, mix well, but where to draw the line between dealing with something difficult in a humorous way and making fun of something. Naturally, this line is different for everyone, which begs the question of how to include humor in books dealing with mental health without being disrespectful. Authors can never please everyone, and I don’t think they should try, but I also want to see mental health issues treated seriously, even when books contain humor.

What do you think? Do you think there’s a time and a place for humor and books dealing with mental health aren’t it, or do you welcome it as long as it’s respectful? Where do you draw the line between respectful and disrespectful humor? I can’t wait to read what you think!


About Vlora

Well, where to start. It was a stormy Sunday night when I entered the world three weeks late, which was to become a precedent for the rest of my life… No, I’m kidding, let’s skip over the first twenty years of my life, because who wants to think about their childhood (unless you’re one of those rare people who had a sheltered, harmonious life growing up, in which case go you). I’m Vlora, obviously a blogger, sometimes a writer, always a reader, currently a student. I like books, TV shows, music, and all things creative. Also food. I’m blogging because it’s a great way to connect with people who share the same passions and interests. My blogging schedule varies between seven times a week during holidays to once a month during busy times, so prepare to be surprised or abandoned at will (wow I’m really selling this, aren’t I?) (I also overuse brackets).

Someone once told me “Never underestimate a reader’s laziness”, so I’ll include a picture instead of more words.

If you want to see more of my face (clearly you do), I also have a youtube channel and sometimes I even remember to use it.


thegiv (1)

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What do you think of humor in mental health books? I personally like it. It seems honest to me, realistic. 

And a huge, huge thank you to Vlora for this awesome discussion! Now… discuss, friends! 

Posted August 17, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Discussion, Giveaway, Guest Post, Mental Health / 32 Comments

32 responses to “#ShatteringStigmas: Humor in Mental Health, Yay or Nay?

  1. I definitely think there’s a fine line between trivialising the issue but also injecting some light heartedness and humour. But I’ve read Finding Audrey and I don’t think it was insensitive. Mental health is a serious topic but it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom all the time. Great discussion Vlora!

  2. I definitely think it can be a good thing to have humour in a mental health themed book (as it’s not like people with mental health problems don’t have a sense of humour), but you are definitely right that there’s a fine line. Personally I think the line is drawn when the humour turns into laughing at the person’s mental health disorder, or the way it affects them. Humour is fine as far as I’m concerned, as long as it isn’t at the expense of the character!
    Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks, Laura! Yes, exactly – it’s not like anyone struggling with mental health problems immediately loses their sense of humor.

  3. Finding Audrey was one of the first books I read with mental health illness. And the humor in the book was what made me appreciate and understand Audrey’s condition more. I’ve always been wary of mental health illness books because they seem so dark and bleak and while I know that’s the reality for a lot of people suffering through them, I tend to read to escape reality, so adding the humor and lightheartedness helps me learn a thing or two about mental health illness and also gives me the boost to read the books about them if that makes any sense. As long as the mental health illness itself is handled with sensitivity and in a thoughtful way, I don’t see anything with humor and lightheartedness in books that handle serious topics.
    Really awesome and thought-provoking post, Vlora!

    • Thanks, Nick, glad you liked it! I agree, I find adding humor makes every book more readable for me, especially ones dealing with darker themes.

  4. Sam

    I did in-patient twice, group therapy for many years, and individual therapy for a really long time. My peers always joked about our issues. I don’t get offended. I always got more offended when someone would tell me to “be happier” or “just eat”.

  5. Omg I hate and loathe Finding Audrey. It is one of the most insensitively cruel ooks I’ve ever encountered and I haaate DNF’ing but I couldn’t get past 100-pages of that. I think humour is important in ALL books, but the difference is when the characters are either (A) joking and being witty, or (B) the jokes are at their expense and mock their illness. Just the same as I think it’s not okay to make lame and rude jokes about, say, your sexuality or a disability, it’s not okay to do it for mental illness either!! So YES we need humour. But I think it needs to be the right type. 🙂 I just finished reading, actually, Highly illogical Behaviour which is about social anxiety! And it did humour omg so so right!! Because it was funny and quirky but NOT at the expensive of the mentally ill character!! SO GOOD.

    • I know haha I thought of your review when I wrote the post. I didn’t find it that offensive, but I was annoyed by the fact that she got better just like that by falling in love with whatshisname. I’m sure I have a different perspective on it though! Ooh, sounds great, I’ll definitely have to check that one out!

  6. I know for sure that most people who have mental illnesses also have a sense of humor. Humor is part of life. I like seeing it in books. I don’t think the humor in a mental health book has ever upset me, but it’s extremely hard to offend me, so I’m probably not the best judge of these things. What does bother me is stereotypes and when a character’s mental illness is miraculously cured by finding a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    • Oh god yes, I hate that trope too. It doesn’t frickin’ work that way. Not being easily offended probably makes life 87% easier haha.

  7. I think this goes without saying but I welcome humour in any and all aspects of life. If I hadn’t been able to laugh things off and joke about stuff going wrong, I would’ve gone mental (heh) a long time ago.

    Having said that, there’s definitely a difference between having a laugh at something and openly mocking it. This is certainly a fine line, but when done well, can be glorious. I personally didn’t find Finding Audrey offensive in its humour, but more in the way her anxiety was “resolved” — by using a pretty boy.

    • Yes, I really didn’t like that part of Finding Audrey either. Also, I kind of thought that her mum was often made fun of (and was written in a way that made her horribly annoying to me) even though she was clearly also going through shit, but then towards the end of the book she became a more complex character when Audrey was able to focus on other people more again, so I was kind of okay with it in the end.

  8. I totally get you with this idea. Can humor help? Absolutely! It has to be done right and with respect. I am wary of even the protagonist with the issue making fun of themselves. I think it really depends. Some people who always take offense at something. Great topic!

    • Thanks! I think I’m always able to tolerate it more when it’s the characters joking about themselves because I’d totally do that? It’s only when they have horribly low self-esteem and make fun of themselves that I get sad about it.

  9. Trix

    There absolutely has to be humor! Not only does it make the subject easier to swallow, it also shows how multi-dimensional the subject and characters are. There’s no more of a disservice than being reduced to a condition or issue…

    • Yeah, I think that’s the crux of it – it’s important to talk about these things in books, but it doesn’t do any good to reduce them to those things alone, thanks for your input!

  10. I love Finding Audrey…Aubrey? One of those.
    I am not a fan of books about mental illness, I kind of dread them even if they sound good because they are usually sad and depressing. Then the ending and romance is always tricky. If there is romance then people complain that ‘love is a solution’ or if there is a HEA then people get upset too. Can people with mental illness not fall in love, have a happily ever after or have some fucking humor in their life??? I say bullshit.
    I like books about characters that happen to have mental illness, I don’t prefer when the mental illness is the focus and the only thing carrying the story. Great post!

    • I think it’s just problematic when they fall in love/start a relationship and then suddenly all of their mental issues are resolved. They can certainly fall in love. 😀 Yeah, it’s always a bit hit and miss when the mental illness carries the entire story – it can totally work, but only if it’s done well.

  11. Awesome post. For me personally I think there is room for humor, but you’re right that line can be different for everyone, so hopefully an author takes great care and is as respectful and thoughtful as possible. and hopefully if a reader finds something offensive or over the line they can roll with it knowing that the author’s heart was (hopefully) in the right place. Bit it can be tough.

    I think mental illness can be so debilitating and life affecting that humor hopefully helps! We all need to be able to smile and laugh once in a while, and if done right hopefully humor can bring someone a smile even when they’re hurting.

    • Thanks, Greg! That’s definitely true, humor should be used in such a way that it helps and hopefully not hurts anyone. But people do get offended by different things, so I think it’d be hard to please everyone. I can overlook some things, but I do roll my eyes at others. It’s certainly a difficult topic!

  12. I think you hit the nail on the head. Humor is appropriate in dark subject matters its how a lot of people deal with the world. Some of the strongest people I know that made it through the hardest stuff often have the best sense of humor. I like your point of drawing the line from having humor with the character and not making fun of the character or the issue. That is really important.

    • Thanks, Jessica! I think you probably have to have some humor to deal with dark subject matters? That’s my experience anyway. 😀

  13. Awesome post Vlora! I haven’t read either book, but I think it depends on whether I “get” the humor in the book or not. I don’t know, honestly I haven’t read that many mental illness books with humor. I think as long as the mental illness doesn’t become the joke, I should like it!

    • Thanks, Val! Yeah, ‘getting’ the humor definitely plays a role – if it’s my type of humor I’m much less likely to be offended by it. 😀

  14. Amazing post! I think humor can be a great addition to most novels, even to books about mental illness, – because it can lighten the novel somewhat, give some scenes to the readers where they can take a deep breath and relax – but only if it doesn’t mock the characters or their condition, because that is NOT okay. For example, I can’t even imagine how would someone with a mental illness feel when reading about a character with the same mental illness being laughed at because of their condition. What if the reader is young with not much self-confidence? Will this person think it’s okay in the real world too when others make fun of him/her?
    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

    • Thank you! Absolutely, it’s not great to feel like you’re being laughed at. I also notice this with body image – for example, there’s A LOT of casual fat–shaming in media and IRL and people often don’t even notice they’re actively hurting someone with their comments. It’s often based on ignorance rather than malice, but it’s hurtful nonetheless!

  15. I agree that I personally enjoy books that infuse humor into serious situations, but you’re right that it can be tricky. Knowing how and where to draw the line can be nearly impossible when (like you say) people’s lines are all in different places. I don’t know that there are good answers to this, except to have LOTS of beta readers when writing a book that might have this issue!

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