John Oliver is fuming about the fact that politicians, from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to business mogul Donald Trump, are blaming the shooting at Umpqua Community College on Friday on mental illness — yet again. On a segment of the latest Last Week Tonight, Oliver said that talking about mental health after a mass shooting is actually the worst time to do so, considering how "the vast majority of mentally ill people are non-violent, and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally-ill people." Oliver's segment on mental health treatment in America made it pretty clear that politicians who mistakenly blame mental illness for mass shootings are either poorly informed or entirely heartless.
At the beginning of the episode, Oliver shows an interview with Harold Schwartz, the chief psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital. Schwartz says that mental illness still carries a heavy stigma. For example, people still use terms like "wacko," "psycho," and "cray cray" to describe the mentally ill. Oliver even showed segments of famous TV hosts like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil saying outrageous things about mentally ill people. For example, Dr. Phil once said, "Have you gone completely insane? Completely insane people go outside, suck on a rock, and bark at the moon," while talking to a guest on his show.
Oliver joked "What the fuck is wrong with you? Sucking on a rock and barking at the moon is not a sign that someone's mentally ill. It's a sign that they are a wolf with an iron deficiency." As he put it, Dr. Phil was obviously getting confused and thinking about anemic wolves, not the mentally ill.
Oliver said the only time politicians talk about mental illness is in the wake of mass shootings, as a way to divert the conversation away from the issue of gun control. He then showed clips of Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Huckabee all doing just that. They each say something along the lines of "This isn't about guns, it's about people with mental health issues." Oliver said its worth nothing that Arkansas got a D- grade in mental healthcare while he was in office:
You can't lecture people on something you got a D- in. That's like passionately delivering a speech on proper English grammar by saying, "We need to thunk better about how we does words stuff. We need to get it did."
Oliver said that if we are going to finally talk about mental illness, then we should learn about the issue. He cited a 2013 study that found that 10 million people in America suffered from a serious mental illness in the past year. Though many of the nightmare sanitariums we read about in history books were shut down by President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, people with mental illnesses still can't get adequate care across the country. Some states house the mentally ill — both young and old — in nursing homes, while others discharge seriously ill patients too soon and give them nothing but a one-way Greyhound bus ticket. And most disturbingly, two million people with mental illnesses go to state and local jails every year, which means there's 10 times more people behind bars than in state-funded psychiatric treatment.
Finding out jails are our largest provider of mental health treatment is like finding out that Lil' Wayne lyrics are our greatest source of sexual education. No, Darren, you can't slap it up, flip it like a spatula! Where did you even learn that?
Oliver then showed clips of Crisis Intervention Training Programs, which are for new law enforcement divisions which help the mentally ill get help, rather than throw them in jail. Unfortunately, these programs are "pioneers" in the field of law enforcement, which Oliver found sad, because "pioneering" ideas should only be ones that are truly outlandish, "like a fitted sheet that folds easily."
Oliver said that programs which actually help the mentally ill don't receive a lot of support, and when they do, it's only briefly in the context of mass shootings, after someone like Huckabee says, "Do we need to do a better job in mental health? You bet we do." Oliver said that bringing up mental health only in the wake of violence is not only misguided, but it's doing a disservice to the mentally ill, whom Americans otherwise ignore:
OK, fine, do it then. Because if we're going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, then the very least we owe them is a fucking plan.
Images: Last Week Tonight/YouTube (6)