On Friday night, I believe I saw the first ever time a guest managed to penetrate the previously indomitably cool exterior of Graham Norton. The beautiful nature of his chat show means that there are often many awkward guests in front of Graham. No matter how awkward, however, he always manages to immediately turn a potential car-crash into a laugh.
On the latest episode of The Graham Norton Show, however, there was an awkward moment to be had. Irish, shaven head and vocal chords of gold – Sinead O’Connor popped onto the sofa to talk briefly before singing. Graham asked her how she was – and Sinead’s initial response bore uncanny resemblance to the recent Time to Change television advert, where ‘Dave’ returns to work after ill mental health.
Sinead very nervously blurted out that she didn’t know how to answer the ‘how are you’ question that many people ask, and that she’d dealt with 25 years of her being ‘crazy’ being a source of entertainment for people. She said: “We live in a world where crazy is a term of abuse” and said it should be outlawed.
Despite her nerves and the fact that this was a perceivably unplanned outburst of sorts, Sinead made a good point succinctly. To say such a thing on a happy chat show where anything close to mental illness is a world away is quite an achievement and explains how the unflappable Graham Norton, well… flapped.
She referred to the word ‘crazy’ having abusive connotations attached, which, of course is true. It made me wonder, however, about the danger of sufferers of mental illness perceiving the outside world in a slightly biased way. For example, for anyone suffering with depression, the casual usage of the phrase ‘feeling depressed’ is probably a source of annoyance. Similarly, the common habit of referring to a bout of nerves as a ‘panic attack’ is undoubtedly of severe annoyance to those suffering from debilitating, unimagined panic attacks. Also, many of us refer to habits of cleanliness as ‘OCD’, which can actually be a debilitating anxiety disorder.
Sinead has a very good point – but the issue of people misusing and misunderstanding the word ‘crazy’ is almost certainly affected by her personal experiences. The habit people have of doing this is not usually meant as intentionally offensive or insensitive, but it can be taken this way.
Sinead’s view gives way to a bigger problem of those suffering with mental illness. Mental illness can be isolating, especially when this black and white mentality comes into play. The words ‘crazy’, ‘mad’ and ‘mental’, which are in our vocabulary as watered-down words to describe day-to-day happenings, need to not offend sufferers of mental illness. Of course, these words aren’t always taken out of context, but when they are, it’s best to take a deep breath and remember that someone who hasn’t been close to ‘crazy’ will use the word innocently.