John Oliver Points Out How the Government and the Media Have no Idea How to Treat Mental Illness


In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Rosewood, Oregon, John Oliver’s feature segment on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight tackled the media’s approach to discussing mental illness.”Mental illness: The thing actors pretend to have in order to win Oscars,” Oliver said, kicking things off with a bang.

Oliver’s segment points out that, yet again, a school shooting has prompted headlines and pundits to start a public discussion about mental illness. In the current presidential election climate, the argument has been used frequently by Republicans as a counter-point to calls for new gun control legislation.

“The aftermath of a school shooting might be the worst time to talk about mental health,” Oliver said. “Because the majority of mentally ill people are non-violent, and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally-ill people. In fact, the mentally ill are far more likely to be the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators. So the fact that we only talk about mental illness in a mass shooting context is deeply misleading.”

Meanwhile, government mental health treatment falls far short of acceptable, including a Nevada facility that resorts to “Greyhound Therapy,” the practice of putting people under the state’s care on busses to avoid treating them. Lack of police training on dealing with the mentally ill has led to millions of people in jail instead of hospitals. Plus, “at least half of people shot and killed by police each year have mental health issues.”