“Last Week Tonight” took on the subject of mental health Sunday (Oct. 4), but did so in a very John Oliver way.
When Americans use guns to unnecessarily kill their fellow humans, politicians (especially pro-gun ones) are quick to frame the issue as being about mental health.
But, as Oliver proceeded to explain, the aftermath of a shooting may be the “worst time” to talk about this complex issue, because “the vast majority of mentally ill people are non-violent and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally ill people”. In 2009, The Associated Press reported that “nearly 125,000 young and middle-aged adults with serious mental illness lived in USA nursing homes” the previous year.
Oliver argues the United States has a dark history of dealing with mentally ill people, placing them in asylums with conditions so grim, they were referred to as “snake pits”.
“That’s nearly as many people as live in Greece, and most of us know a lot more about Greece than we know about our mental health system”, Oliver says. But that won’t be easy because of the “clusterf***” of American agencies devoted to mental health.
“Utilizing the felony justice system to deal with the mentally ailing isn’t simply ineffective-it’s costly, and it’s harmful”, mentioned Oliver. Republican presidential candidates were quick to blame the shooter’s possible mental illness despite the fact he was discharged from the U.S. Army with fears he would misuse firearms, yet had unimpeded access to them.
“We as a society, we have to figure out how to fund [mental health programs]-not just because it makes fiscal sense, but because it would save lives”.
“OK fine-do it then”, shouted Oliver.
In the wake of any tragedy like the shooting at a community college in Oregon last week, politicians and pundits of all political stripes come out in force to talk about how best to avoid another occurrence in the future.