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Are We Breaking Into the Mainstream?: John Oliver’s Segment on Mental Illness

John Oliver is the host of the TV show “Last Week Tonight”, a political satire program in the same vein as the Daily Show. On October 4th he did a segment on Mental Health Problems, and it was INCREDIBLE. After the Oregon shooting, the killer was immediately, and without clinical support, labeled “mentally ill”. As with every mass shooting, it seemed that us people with mental health problems would be subject to another BS round of politicians and reporters making attention and vote grabbing judgments of what should be done with all of us. John Oliver took the opposite track, and he tore them all a new one. To my knowledge, he willingly addressed what no one with a national audience had ever done. He started by arguing that we don’t like talking about mental health problems, and do it terribly when discussion does occur. Throughout his talk he covered stigma and the perception of people with mental health problems as violent, the lack of mental health care and competence in many places, and concluded by saying “if we are going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, then the very least we owe them is a f****ing plan”

I am ecstatic. I’ve been discussing these issues with peers in the mental health community for years, but I didn’t expect anyone who didn’t have first hand experience to talk honestly about these issues for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean we are being listened to. His perspective seems to be formed by evaluating sources and opinions that are not people with mental health problems. Also he was unaware that “mental illness” can be offensive. But this does mean someone outside the mental health community took a look at what we have to go through and said, “This is terrible, why is this happening?”. Then they thought it was important enough to spend a huge chunk of their show on. There was realization AND action. I have noticed a lot of people outside mental health are gaining realization. Now that one prominent person has broken the ice and taken action to discuss the matter maybe eventually others will follow. I’m hoping this is a sign of a more honest, rational view of us people with mental health problems, and our treatment. What do you guys think?

Check it out here.

3 Replies to “Are We Breaking Into the Mainstream?: John Oliver’s Segment on Mental Illness”

  1. torry22 says:

    I just watched this two times and I LOVED IT. Talk about finally getting the hidden conversation out! I have so much to comment on!

    First, although the shootings are very sad and tragic, everyone does look to mental illness right away. The shocking that John Oliver points out is “fewer then 5% of the 12,000 gun related killings were perpetrated by people diagnosed mental illness.” But the first thing the media states is that these acts of violence are caused by mental illness. This is what creates stigma.

    Then John Oliver goes on to say “…adults with mental illnesses were more likely to be victims then perpetrators of community violence.” As a young adult who struggled with mental illness, I wish people would listen to these statements more clearly. The statics are real! 10 million people struggle with a mental illness each YEAR. That is a HUGE percent of the population. Yet, it’s shun upon when people start talking about it and are trying to do something about this.
    Although John Oliver’s language can be harsh, he is showing the community that this isn’t something that shouldn’t be talked about. We need to educate our nation and the people who surround us everyday. He may be making some jokes, but he is showing us that it needs to be heard.

    All and all, I love this video clip because it shows truth. We live in a world that likes to shove things under the table, and this is something that has been for decades. Today, I am hoping for more people like John Oliver.

  2. Grace says:

    The sad thing to me is that this is a subject that is almost always breached by comedians – people that are rarely taken very seriously. I worry that this segment will get lost to those who really need it, otherwise we’re preaching to the choir.

  3. Amily says:

    John Oliver touched on some very important topics regarding the mental health system, all the while expressing a good sense of humor. He began by talking about the names that “mentally ill” people get called, “whacko”, “psycho”, etc. This made me think, what exactly is “normal” behavior? Who gets to decide what kind of behaviors and lifestyles are that of a mentally ill person verses that of a “normal” person, and where do we draw the line?

    Another thought that came to mind is the ever-present subject of mass shootings. John Oliver brought up a point that didn’t even cross my mind at first: that they’re trying to shine the light away from gun control and focus more on the mental aspect of the situation. It seems to me that there’s always some kind of negative association with people who experience mental illness that gets brought up by the media.
    What about all the inspiring stories? The news never shows how a person who has suffered from a mental illness in the past is making a contribution to society in any way, unless they’re really famous or have a lot of money. Instead, they’re quick to show the extreme cases that catch the public’s attention, reinforcing the false association between mental illness and violence.

    A different subject he brought up was police intervention with people who have mental health challenges. I find it ridiculous that crisis intervention training is optional to those employed in law enforcement. Every officer should be mandated to know how to properly handle all kinds of situations, so that people with mental illness aren’t killed and people who need options know that they have a choice.

    Politicians are frequently saying, “We need to do something about the lack of mental health support,” yet nothing seems to be getting done by the very people who are quick to point a finger at mental illness when a tragedy occurs.

    Overall, I found the video to be enlightening, informative, truthful, and I enjoyed the humor that went along with it.

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