John Oliver: Why Do We Only Talk About Mental Health After Mass Shootings?

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On Last Week Tonight this past Sunday, John Oliver announced that he was annoyed that the United States only talks about fixing mental health care after mass shootings, especially since millions of people suffer from severe mental illnesses every year — and our mental health care system is broken enough that many people who need help get sent to prison, or are simply left without treatment. Others are left with imperfect options — more than 100,000 mentally ill people too young to belong in nursing homes end up being treated in them.

The aftermath of a mass shooting might actually be the worst time to talk about mental health,” he said. “The vast majority of mentally ill people are nonviolent and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally-ill people. In fact, mentally ill people are far likelier to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.”

However, he added, if this is the only time that the country is willing to talk about this issue, maybe politicians and advocates should take advantage of it. “And if I remember rightly,” he added, “there are some politicians who claim to be pretty motivated to address this problem.” Oliver showed footage of several GOP presidential candidates talking about the need to improve mental health care in the past few days.

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.”