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How to respond to someone who makes insensitive jokes about suicide, according to mental health experts

By NICK GARCIA Published Sep 25, 2023 5:04 pm

Warning: This story contains mentions of suicide and self-harm.

Veteran host Joey De Leon is under fire after making an apparent suicide joke on air.

On the Sept. 23 episode of TV5's E.A.T., contestants were taking part in Gimme 5, a game in which participants must name five things in a given category. That day, it was things that could be put around the neck.

The participant only had necklace as an answer until time ran out. De Leon then said, "Lubid, lubid, nakakalimutan niyo. Lubid." Without reacting to De Leon's remarks, other hosts suggested scarf, sash, garland, and medal.

The clip went viral on X (formerly Twitter), angering social media users for his supposed insensitivity.

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in a statement on Sept. 25 said it's looking into whether De Leon violated its rules and regulations.

How to deal with someone who jokes about suicide or mental illness

If you come across a person who makes insensitive remarks about mental health problems, it's important to let them know that it's no laughing matter.

Clinical psychologist Rainier Ladic told PhilSTAR L!fe that you must be assertive and firm when calling the attention of someone. He, however, stressed that it doesn't necessarily mean aggressiveness.

"To be assertive means to have the courage to call out behaviors that we think are not acceptable without using aversive means," he said. "To be firm by making someone be aware of their own mistake is the first step of helping them develop sensitivity and perspective-taking."

He said you may try saying things like, "I think your joke is inappropriate."

Lordy Angelo Santos, a psychologist and psychometrician, believes in the power of private engagement to ensure the other party is willing to lend an open ear.

"We do not want them to feel attacked, so they will not be defensive as well," he said.

By doing it in private, he said there would be fewer chances that the ones being called out would act defensively.

"Giving them a benefit of the doubt or at least a chance to present their perspective can give us an opportunity to respond better to their actions," Santos said.

If you encounter someone who makes insensitive jokes about mental illness, call them out and let them know that it's no laughing matter.

For psychologist Wenna Brigaste, there must be understanding first as much as possible as there are cases in which an individual who makes insensitive remarks is highly likely misinformed.

"They may not be aware that a simple remark may cause harm or endanger others," Brigaste said. "Help the person understand what mental illnesses are, but not in a confrontative manner."

She, however, noted that it may be "challenging" because raising a brow and responding immediately happen most of the time.

"You have to engage them in a safe conversation to delve more into their line of thinking and point of view without being argumentative or judgmental," Brigaste told L!fe. "Sometimes, people don't really understand the gravity of the things they say (or post and share online). They may not be aware that a simple remark may cause harm or endanger others."

Citing personal experiences or research-backed information to educate about mental health illness and break stigma would be of immense help, the mental health professionals said.

"This makes other people more guarded with what might come out of their mouth," Ladic said, "knowing that they have already developed a deeper understanding about truths of mental health issues."

Aside from calling out others who may be misguided, Brigaste believes that sustained advocacy regarding mental health holds more power—inasmuch as making a conscious effort to show kindness ourselves.

"It may be easier to respond to comments made by other people," she said, "but do not forget that it is equally important to be mindful of what you say or how you respond to others."

"Do not engage in word wars or resort to belittling others who do not have the same beliefs as yours," Brigaste added. (with reports from Brooke Villanueva)


If you or anyone you know is considering self-harm or suicide, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.