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Ask Amy: Self-deprecating statements about mental health create a trying work environment

Dear Amy: My little sister died nearly two years ago by suicide after years of battling PTSD from sexual assaults when she was a teenager.

I started a new job three months ago. I love all my colleagues.

We are prosecutors and advocates for victims. It is hard and exhausting work.

For my colleagues, this pressure manifests itself in self-deprecating statements about mental health, such as “I don’t think I’ll make it tomorrow”, “I hope no one finds me dead tomorrow morning”, and after something annoying happens in court: “I guess I’m just going to go kill myself.”

I’ve been forced to hide my discomfort with their jokes for the past few months, which has forced me to quickly run to the bathroom to vent my emotions.

It seems to bond them, confirming that the job is hard. I feel uncomfortable not participating.

I’ve waited in silence for the jokes to be over, but honestly, it happens almost every day.

With the holidays approaching, the loss of my sister has been more difficult for me.

I want to talk but I don’t know how.

Is it better to interrupt a joke when everyone is at the table and accept that it’s going to be awkward?

Or should I say I’m struggling with the holidays coming up and it would help if these jokes weren’t told in front of me?

Or is there another option?

– Uncertain

Dear Uncertain: I am sincerely sorry for your loss.

I don’t claim to be the arbiter of humor, yet making comments or jokes about violence or self-harm like “I guess I’m going to kill myself” is tasteless and inappropriate in any context.

Yes, due to your situation, you are sensitive to comments like this, but it is safe to assume that others within earshot (clients, victims, colleagues) are also sensitive to this type of comment.

You are together in the trenches, serving in very stressful situations. There are plenty of other ways to bond and let off steam.

I’m going to assume that because you’re relatively new to your job, your co-workers aren’t aware of your sister’s death.

You should respond to a comment like this in the moment and in front of others: “I know you don’t mean it, but those of us who have lost family members to suicide have learned not to joke on this subject. And then – let him lie. You will immediately be stopped by one or two people. Others will be inspired to think about it.

You have difficult times ahead. No more trips to the toilet. The holidays are tough for people who have experienced loss, and that includes just about everyone. Be both honest and gentle with yourself and with others.

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for several years.

She’s from the Midwest but we now live on the coast where I grew up.

So I often introduce her to new people.

My wife is a lovely and friendly person.

But when she meets someone for the first time, she sometimes opens with, “Oh, my God! Did you know you have a doppelgänger? and goes on to describe an old friend, acquaintance, or regional celebrity from his past and how the two are so alike.

She always frames it in a positive light. Nonetheless, I tend to cringe because I don’t believe people really want to know how “like someone else” they are, even if it’s a compliment.

It seems even more distracting to make good first impressions.

My wife, however, doesn’t seem to think this is a problem. I would like to hear your point of view on this.

– Worried husband (anonymous)

Dear Concerned: This “you look like” phenomenon happens with some frequency to me – and sometimes the person I look like turns out to be… myself. But then what? It’s an opening.

Being told you look like someone you’ve never heard of isn’t the most bubbly conversation starter in the world, but I suggest it’s not behavior you should feel the need to. to correct.

Dear Amy: ‘Holding’ told you how she met her husband 30 years ago when she was a ‘part-time sex worker’.

I was shocked and disappointed that you didn’t report her on her profession.

– Upset

Dear Upset: “Holding” asked about her mother-in-law. With a mother-in-law in her life, ready to judge her – I didn’t need to cram.

You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

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