John Oliver on Mental Health

British comedian, John Oliver, sheds light on some of the hard to talk about topics of mental health.

Through his median of comedy, Oliver highlights several points, including:

  1. The words we use matter.

    Dr. Harold Schwartz, Chief Psychologist at Hartford Hospital, says stigma is perpetuated by the words we use to describe mental illness – “whacko, psycho, cray cray.” Famous television personalities, including Dr. Phil, refer to guests as “completely insane” and talk on crudely named shows, like “Normal… or Nuts.” With popular nomenclature like these, it is no wonder mental health stigma is still such a prevailing issue. Watch how people with mental illnesses describe themselves:

  2. When we talk about mental illness matters.

    Mental health only hits the media in the aftermath of tragedy, most recently after the mass shootings earlier this year. It becomes a tool for politicians to divert attention from gun control.

    This isn’t guns… this is really about mental illness.
    –  Donald Trump, Republican Presidential Candidate

    Yet, the American Journal of Public Health published a study showing fewer than 5% of 120,000 gun-related killings were perpetrated by those with mental illness. When we dig deeper, we find the vast majority of the mentally ill are non-violent.

  3. How we treat mental health matters.

    JFK famously passed legislation to replace inhumane psychiatric asylums, known as “snake pits”, with state-funded community centers. However, in the face of insufficient funding, community centers were in short supply, leaving patients without options. Consequently, patients flooded nursing homes or were infamously subjected to “greyhound therapy,” when patients were discharged too soon with a one way ticket on Greyhound. Today, the largest mental health treatment center is the prison system, which is both ineffective and expensive.


This post was written by Cathy Liu. Please contact cathy@subconscious.org with any questions.