Why I don’t think it’s funny to make jokes about “hearing voices”.

John Jackson of internet fame (he blogs at Ink and Vellum and is basically everywhere doing everything awesome – including co-convening ACRL’s New Member Discussion Group with me) shared this video on Twitter today.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/13830031″>The Information Cycle</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user4133833″>Kimbel Library</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I normally don’t watch random library tutorials shared on Twitter, but I was curious about this one, if only because the Information Lifecycle/Timeline is one of my favorite topics to teach. The video’s production quality is fabulous, there’s no discussion there – it is one of the best ones I’ve seen in a long time. But I would not use this video in class, or link to it from one of my guides.

Why? Well, first of all, it completely leaves out professional literature. This is a big deal in some of the areas I work with (Political Science, International Relations, Geology, and Geography). But more importantly, I’m uncomfortable with the repeated jokes about “hearing voices”. Yeah, I know, I got that it’s a reference to The Shining. Even though I’ve never seen it, I have seen the Simpsons version. And I know that the video is geared towards undergraduates, and thus has to be interesting and edgy to get their attention. But it’s not worth it to play into society’s dismissal of the mentally illl.

Why do I care so much about this? I’m the daughter of a (retired) psychiatric nurse. I grew up with many more opportunities to interact with people with varying levels of mental illness than most people get. I’ve also seen people get treated like crap because they have at some point struggled with mental illness. This has made me really sensitive to portrayals of mental illness in the media and pop culture – possibly (probably?) I’m oversensitive. But, I always wonder if these jokes would be so acceptable if they were being made about another group that are more embraced by contemporary American society.

Possibly this bothers me so much because the video is geared towards the very age group that is most at risk for having a psychotic break. Or because we know that we have a problem with mental health care availability in the United States. Or maybe just because I’m kind of in a bad mood today.

But here’s the thing – what if you show that video in 10 classes, each with 20 students over the course of an academic year. You’ve reached 200 people! (Awesome job! That’s a lot of people!) According to this publication about mental health and college students, 27% of young adults 18-24 have a diagnosable mental health problem. That’s 54 of your students. I might be oversensitive, but that’s a lot of people.


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