"It seems there is nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest in mental health," John Oliver says in his latest Last Week Tonight report, referencing the nonstop political arguments surrounding gun control and mental illness following the Oregon tragedy, the 264th mass shooting of the year. "And the aftermath of a mass shooting might actually be the worst time to talk about mental health" because it's "deeply misleading."
"The vast majority of mentally ill people are non-violent," he explains. "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."
Since politicians like Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump have been blaming this shooting epidemic on a broken mental health system, Oliver decides to oblige them and examine the issue in depth. But unlike those politicians, his motive isn't steering the conversation away from gun control; his goal is to destigmatize an issue faced by an estimated 43.8 million American adults.
The way our country deals with mental illness, he says, is "a mess and it always has been." In general, the state and federal governments fail to prioritize mental health in their communities, opting for practices like “Greyhound therapy," or putting people with mental illnesses on Greyhound buses to other states (yes, seriously). According to Oliver, one of the most common places for people with mental illness end up is prison, which is ineffective, expensive, and dangerous.
Oliver pleads for a massive overhaul of the system. Since mental health is currently dominating the news cycle — even if it's for the wrong reasons — it's probably a good time to come up with a strategy. After all, he says, “If we’re going to constantly use mentally ill people to dodge conversations about gun control, the least we owe them is a fucking plan.”
Watch the entire segment below:
Screengrab via LastWeekTonight/YouTube