Normally, I try and stay away from my personal rants and opinions on things like politics, the news, religion, and so forth. My goal is to provide a comfortable platform of information for anyone that wants it regardless of orientation, beliefs, or whatever.
With that being said, Fox correspondent Tom Sullivan recently stated on his show that people with mental illness have “figured out how to ‘game the system’ by receiving disability benefits”. He then went on to defend Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) false statement that “over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts”.
A caller with Bipolar Disorder attempt to refute his beliefs, although did not have the right information to do so or presence of mind to actually debate the points.
I encourage you to check out Media Matters link provided if you want a direct link to a page with video. I am simply going to address some of the discussion that was cited in the included link.
“SULLIVAN: I’m very skeptical. And 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.
CALLER: That is very true, however, there are people that have the extremes of that. They have their bad days, are beyond — I mean you literally cannot get out of bed. Not because you don’t, that you don’t want to —
SULLIVAN: What were these people called 25 years ago?
Facts: Having good days and bad days is not criteria for a mental illness diagnosis. Good and bad days to the extremes that they disrupt and prevent you from meaningfully living your life are. An inability to function appropriately in the basics of human existence (use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for an idea), is a reason to at least speak to a professional about it. Does that mean the person should immediately be put on Disability or start shoveling medication down their throat? No.
25 years ago would be 1990. They were called Bipolar people. It wasn’t until 1980 that the DSM-3 changed “Manic-Depression” to “Bipolar Disorder” to accommodate the number of people who fall in the Bipolar spectrum that do not experience “Mania” as a symptom. Hypomania is not mania.
CALLER: Well, you know what, it’s funny —
SULLIVAN: Before they came with this bipolar diagnosis. I mean, I just think it’s something made up by the mental health business just to be able to give people prescriptions and keep them coming in, and keeping you — paying them money.
Facts: The first mention of manic-depression (Bipolar Disorder) as a separate mental illness was about a thousand years ago in The Canon of Medicine in 1025. It’s also been known as the “Circular Disease” before it was Manic-Depression before it was Bipolar Disorder. Physicians from all over the world are noted to have specifically identified it- ranging from the French who pioneered the beliefs of what we know it as today to the Chinese who described it in Eight Treatises on the Nurturing of Life in the 16th century to the Greeks who believed once believed it to be an imbalance of humours. Bipolar Disorder has a long and storied history if you bother to research it at all.
SULLIVAN: You ever heard of these doctors that say the psychology business is full of basically people — it’s big pharma that’s pushing the whole thing because they make a ton of money? Your parents never would have gotten this. There wasn’t even a diagnosis as bipolar when your parents were your age.
CALLER: No, that’s true.
Facts: This statement is something political figures and pundits use to make their point. It is true that the caller’s parents never would have gotten a Bipolar diagnosis at her age, because the Bipolar diagnosis did not EXIST yet. They would have been diagnosed Manic-Depression. It is not a direct lie, but a misrepresentation of truth through omission of fact. This is something called “spin”. Next time you watch a politician or pundit, listen for phrases like “we think”, “we believe”, “I believe”, “Studies show”. These are weasel word phrases and the basis of spin. That way if the person gets called out on their asinine belief, they can simply say “I didn’t assert it as a fact. I simply said ‘I believe’; an expression of opinion.” Which it is and would be fine if the average listener would separate opinion from fact.
SULLIVAN: So — and you know what? They did just fine. Society did fine. I don’t know, I don’t know why we have to create these new illnesses, and create all these medicines for something that really wasn’t a problem in the first place.
CALLER: Well, I understand what you’re saying. And that is a common, that’s a common feeling for a lot of people. They don’t understand it, and honestly, you won’t understand it until you experience it. And I would never wish this on my worst enemy. But it truly is a disorder and a disease. I know that personally I would not be alive today if it were not for medications and for therapy. Because I would have killed myself. When I was in college, I was there, I almost did it. So if, you know, there are actual problems. I’m actually affected physically, not just mentally, you know, having disabilities –
Facts: No, they did not do just fine. They were ignored like all of the other dirty little facts of society of the era. Mentally ill people were thrown away into mental institutions with less oversight and conditions worse than some maximum security prisons. Society was just as poisonous in your “golden era” as it is today; except then it was flagrant and acceptable.
SULLIVAN: You ever think that maybe, maybe somebody’s talked you into feeling and thinking this way?
CALLER: I wish. No.”
Personal Opinion: No. Because I spent from the time I started cycling at 13 to almost 29 not talking about the suicide attempts and ideation, the delusional thinking of talking to God or being sent messages, of doing horrible things to myself and the people around me. I tried to discuss it twice. Once with a person who I trusted who had beliefs similar to yours, who shut me down immediately as suicidal thoughts being a weakness of character. To my doctor who misdiagnosed me as depressive with all the fun that comes along with being on an antidepressant without a mood stabilizer as a Bipolar person. Surprise, surprise “deal with it” didn’t stop me from falling deep enough into the pit to actually follow through on my suicidal thoughts.
Because of people promoting the idiotic “beliefs” that you have, I spent a majority of that time thinking I was just a shitty person who couldn’t handle responsibility instead of seeking the help and stability that the medical industry and Disability has enabled me to achieve through my own effort.
What you or I “believe” is irrelevant. Try reading a book and learning some facts.
Now, this is normally the time when a blog or writer will tell you; “omg you can make a difference, contact Fox to express your outrage!” Save your energy. It means nothing. They’ll just trot out with a half-assed apology and life will go on as usual; like all the other times this crap has happened over the years.
Want to make an actual difference in your perception and this drivel? Stop listening to pundits, stop watching the networks and shows that support them, and start reading more. Don’t take their word, or my word for a damned thing, go out and read it; research it yourself. The caller, though having good intentions, did not have the ammunition needed to counter these common, ignorant perceptions.
If you want to make a difference in ending stigma, you’re going to have to do better than “Nu uh! You’re wrong!” with people like Sullivan who are gifted communicators in an arena that thrives on being manipulative to work the emotions of audiences to get them tuned back in.
It’s not about being a Republican, Democrat, or Independent; it’s not about being Christian, Muslim, or Pagan; it’s about truth. There is only one truth despite the many, many perceptions of that one truth. Perceptions are simply an opinion of that one truth.
And the truth of this matter is- Bipolar Disorder is a very real mental illness that’s been around for a very long time with high suicide rates in people who go untreated.
What you, Sullivan, or I perceive and believe about that truth is irrelevant. Our beliefs and perceptions do not change those fundamental facts. It’s no different than the discredited MMR vaccine and autism link perpetuated by ignorance and trumpeted by the media.
Subscribe to have blog posts and news delivered straight to your Inbox!