Did you see/hear the rant about mental health issues that John Oliver delivered on a recent segment of his show Last Week Tonight? The outburst was prompted by the recent mass shooting in Oregon. Oliver noted that the politicians have been blaming this mass shooting, and all others as well, on mental illness, which, he pointed out, seems to be the only time mental health issues get addressed. But, other than his initial mention of the mass shooting in Oregon, which was the trigger for his tirade, his words primarily dealt with the weak condition of mental health services in our society. It was terrific. It was eleven minutes and fifty-four seconds of sheer genius verbiage about our mental health system’s failures, and how poorly we talk about the situation, if we talk about it at all. In addition, he noted a number of prime people who are doing little if anything to encourage any significant changes. Truly, it was an uplifting moment listening to and then processing his thoughts. It was also amazing to hear the incredulity that Oliver emoted about the lack of understanding of, and lack of sensitivity to, mental health issues that is shown by politicians and the general public. In fact, he highlighted two doctors who have television shows and appear to be clueless about their own insensitive treatment of mental health issues. I was cheering John Oliver on. I was dancing with excitement as I listened very carefully to all the points Oliver made in his “skit.” I wanted to reach through my computer and hug him. I wanted to scream and yell, “Hey, here I am, let me help you tell the world.” Unfortunately, the glass was in the way, and he was too busy saying important things. He talked about the stigma of the disease. He talked about the poor job we do of discussing this subject intelligently on the rare occasions when we allot time to talk about mental health diseases and their treatments. He also spoke about the closing of institutions and the lack of help that is available to people who truly need it. He talked about the squeamishness that people exhibit when they refer to mental health issues, and the strange “names” they attach to the condition. So many topics touched. So much to think about for the newly aware.
It was great to have someone who is so visible in today’s culture take such a strong stand on the lack of understanding of the mental health issue, and he did it through such a public medium – television. We need more people to be vocal. We need politicians, doctors, and other visible personalities to advocate for us. And the issue is certainly not helped by lumping us altogether and calling us “nuts” or “completely insane” or “not normal.” (I am very normal, I just have a tough challenge.) It is important to remember, “us” covers a large community of people with mental health disorders, and within that community there are many different manifestations of the disease. Some of “us” are burdened with difficult and complicated versions of a mental health disorder, and others have simpler, more straight forward forms of the disease. Kind of like the difference between stage one breast cancer and stage four breast cancer. They are linked to the same illness, but they have different treatments and often different results. However, one thing all people who have mental health disorders share in common is that we share the same battle with the stigma of having a mental health disorder. Let “us” get rid of the stigma. Let “us” all continue talking and sharing our stories. Let others see that we are normal human beings with tough challenges. We deserve respect. We deserve understanding. We deserve help.