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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fox Radio host says Mental Illness isn't real

Tom Sullivan, a host for Fox News Radio, told a caller last Wednesday her mental illness (bipolar disorder) was made up. Sullivan began his program by complaining about the number of people on some sort of disability, then launched into an all-out attack against the mentally ill. Sullivan told his listeners he agrees with Rand Paul's statements about disability by pointing out Washington, DC has a high number of people diagnosed with mental illness on disability, and claims all those people have figured out how to "game the system." In other words, if you're mentally ill, and live in DC, you're a scammer.

The caller was responding to Sullivan's comments, and shared her own story. She had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder many years ago, and thanks to medication and therapy, had graduated from college. She went on to point out that bipolar disorder is a disability, at which point, Tom Sullivan said this:

 I've got to tell you, if you haven't been told, I will tell you. I think bipolar is like the latest fad. Everybody and their brother is getting diagnosed with bipolar. And last time I checked, we all have good days and we all have bad. And I don't consider that an illness. And I don't consider it a disability.
This is the photo Fox News Radio used as the image on their website, promoting Tom Sullivan's segment on disability:


That stock photo is named "Sad-woman." With her fuzzy tea cozy, her very tidy den, her perfectly coiffed hair, and her remote control-this is the "face" of mental illness Fox News Radio chose to show their fans. Lazy. Moocher. She looks like she could get a job, so she's scamming the system.

At my worst, twenty or so years ago, I was cutting myself at least once a day. I was unable to hold a job, or maintain any kind of normal relationship. I had survived two rapes, domestic violence, and two suicide attempts. But to Tom Sullivan, and people like him, there was nothing wrong with me. Mental illness is fake, bipolar disorder is a fad, disability is only someone who's lost a leg, or an arm, or is blind.

I've never been on disability, primarily because I believed the lies about mental illness told by the Tom Sullivans of the world: If you're not missing a limb, or physically ill, you're not disabled. And this is something so many Americans think. When a neighbor or friend is diagnosed with cancer, or some other debilitating physical disease, people flock to their home, offering food, dog-walking, rides to the hospital, house cleaning, you name it. When a neighbor or friend is diagnosed with a mental illness, there are no casseroles, no offers to drive the person to therapy, no Facebook pages set up to cheer them on, no GoFundMe pages to help raise money. There's silence, shame, and ignorance, thanks in no small part to people like Tom Sullivan.

The American Psychological Association calls bipolar disorder a "serious mental illness." Mayo Clinic has an entire article on their website entitled "Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness." From the article:
Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that's thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common. Stigma can lead to discrimination. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Or it may be unintentional or subtle, such as someone avoiding you because the person assumes you could be unstable, violent or dangerous due to your mental health condition. You may even judge yourself. Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:
  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others you know
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn't adequately cover your mental illness treatment
  • The belief that you'll never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can't improve your situation (source)
For most of my life, I have been a borderline personality. This is a personality disorder, but to someone like Tom Sullivan, I'm faking. There's nothing really wrong with me, I'm just having a bad day. For over thirty years. 

Here is a comment from an article about mental health and disability, posted on Brent Bozell's ultraconservative website, CNSNews:
 Becky-Mood Disorders didn't even EXIST until the Libs took over everything. Including the writing of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. Psychosis is NOT a mood disorder. Psychosis is a PSYCHOSIS. It is WHY the brain dead should never be allowed to make anything official.
I worked in the mental health system back before it was ruined by the liberal brain dead. I don't go by ANYTHING they have done to the system.As i continue to tell you lying insane Libs: DENYING or distorting the truth DOES NOT CHANGE IT.
I really hope Becky no longer works in the mental health field. Her astonishing lack of both empathy and medical knowledge would place patients in grave danger.

Tom Sullivan echoes what many believe, on all political sides, about mental illness. Go back over the Mayo Clinic list. That's what stigma about mental illness does every day to people who need help. Tom Sullivan should be ashamed of himself, but you and I both know he's not. He's simply echoing conservative talking points about people who need help. Rape victims haven't really been raped, there are no homeless veterans, and in order to qualify for disability, you must have lost a limb, or be blind. 

We need to stop stigmatizing mental illness. It is real, it is not a "fad," and if people like Tom Sullivan spent some time meeting and talking with a few folks living with bipolar disorder, or severe depression, or borderline personality disorder, or PTSD, maybe they'd discover the truth. Or maybe they'd call us all scammers, and tell us what we have isn't an illness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please check out the resources linked below.

NAMI.org

National Institute of Mental Health