Sammy Nickalls
October 05, 2015 8:30 am

John Oliver is pretty darn good at the whole “truth bomb” thing. He’s spoken out on LGBTQ discrimination, sex education, education in general. . . and he’s even helped out with actual crime investigations. Now, John has delivered some incredibly important and grave facts (with his own characteristic comedic spin) on something that every politician is terrified to speak about: mental illness.

On this very important Last Week Tonight clip, the segment begins with an assertion of the stigma surrounding mental health by Dr. Harold Schwartz, chief psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital. John also explains how online doctors like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil make light of mental illness and increase the stigma surrounding these issues, by making these statements on their incredibly popular shows. In fact, there’s only one time mental health is really talked about in an in-depth way, John noted: “One of the only times [mental health is] actively brought up is, as we’ve seen yet again this week, in the aftermath of a mass shooting as a means of steering the conversation away from gun control.”

He is, of course, referring to the shooting last week on a community college campus in Oregon. Since the aftermath of the fatal tragedy, politicians like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee have cited mental health as a serious issue. . . but for a very specific reason that has nothing to do with those who are struggling from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. “It seems there is nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest in mental health,” John said.

But, as John highlights, talking about mental health in reference to a shooting is probably the worst time to talk about it, “because for the record, the vast majority of mentally ill people are non-violent, and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally ill people,” John explained. In fact, those who are mentally ill are most likely to be victims of such crimes.

Despite the fact that 43.8 million adults suffered from mental illness in 2013, and an estimated 10 million — more than the population of Greece — had a serious mental illness, most of us know far more about Greece than about our mental health system, John explained. Learning about it would be a sobering experience indeed, because even though John F. Kennedy shut down asylums and their cruel practices, the therapeutic centers he wanted to replace them with never got the funding. Now, those with mental health issues are being placed in nursing homes, being discharged due to incredibly inhumane “greyhound therapy” (discharging patients too soon and giving them a one-way Greyhound ticket out of town), and being put into jail (an estimated 2 million in jail every year, which is 10 times more people behind bars than in state-funded psychiatric treatment).

Right now, our politicians are sweeping mental health under the rug, taking it back out again only to shield themselves against conversations surrounding gun control. Kudos to John for highlighting yet another essential issue — especially one that affects millions of people all over the world. We need to keep the conversation going to change the tides and remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

Watch the entire important clip below.

Related reading: 

A crucial mental health conversation is happening all over Twitter

John Oliver drops major truth about online harassment for women

[Image via YouTube]

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