On an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver discusses a very important topic, one that often gets swept under the rug: mental illness.
Such a conversation is to be expected in the wake of the mass school shooting in Oregon as many politicians, including Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, claim the way to prevent further tragedies like last week's is to address mental illness.
In response, Oliver makes two very important points.
1. We need to talk about mental illness all the time. Not just after a shooting.
That's because mental health is something that affects our country deeply every single day. In fact, Oliver cites results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health which found about 43.8 million American adults had a mental illness in 2013. That survey also shows that in 2013 about "10 million... had serious mental illness... in the past year."
But despite millions of Americans being affected by mental illness, the topic is hardly talked about publicly, and is often stigmatized, especially when connected to violence.
Which brings Oliver to his second point.
2. Talking about mental health in the wake of a shooting is THE WORST time to do it, because the vast majority of people with mental health issues are non-violent.
Talking about mental health in the aftermath of a shooting not only is "a means of steering the conversation away from gun control" says Oliver, but perpetuates the idea that people with mental health issues are also violent individuals.
Oliver pulls up various statistics to show this is just not the case. In fact, those suffering from mental health issues are more often victims of violence than they are the perpetrators of it.
Even though Oliver says discussing "mental health in a mass shooting context is deeply misleading," we might as well seize the opportunity since it's permeating the news.
But when we ask what America is doing to remedy the situation, the answer is pretty terrifying, as this country has a long history of ignoring and mishandling mental healthcare. People with mental illness are often displaced to nursing homes, tossed to the street, and worst of all, put in jails.
Each year, "2 million people with serious mental illness are booked into local jails," according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Treatment Advocacy Center.
So, what can we do about this?
There are already a few programs in place dedicated to helping people with mental illness stay out jail, such as Assertive Community Treatment, but Oliver urges us as a society to put our money where our mouth is and fund many more programs to support mentally ill people.
"....not just because it makes fiscal sense, but because it would save lives... If we are going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, then, at the very least, what we owe them is a f****** plan."
Watch what Oliver has to say below:
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