Fox Business radio host Tom Sullivan has some thoughts on mental illness and those thoughts are—you better sit down for this one—pretty dumb. Sullivan told a caller recently that her bipolar disorder was probably just Feelings and also a total fad designed to make money off suckers like her. You may be surprised to learn Sullivan is not a doctor or a psychiatrist.
Media Matters' Eric Hanonoki was first to notice Sullivan's remarks (because who in God's name listens to Fox Business radio). Sullivan had been complaining that people with mental illness can get disability benefits, or, as he put it, "they've figured out how to game the system." The point, you see, is that people with mental illness are lazy and faking it, as is everyone who receives disability benefits, who Sullivan claimed are "mostly government employees." Very original.
At that point, a woman from Sacramento called in to let Sullivan know that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 13 years ago. While she works and a has a full-time job, mental health treatment was vital and nothing she'd achieved would have been possible without it.
Dr. Sullivan, though, had other ideas: "I've got to tell you, if you haven't been told, I will tell you. I think bipolar is like the latest fad," he told the woman. "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." The diagnosis, he added, was "made up by the mental health business" to "be able to give people prescriptions and keep them coming in and keep paying them money."
As Media Matters also notes, Fox Business is very proud of this exchange, which they've posted on their website under the headline "Bipolar Woman Says She DESERVES Disability Benefits. Tom Tells Her She's WRONG!"
Sullivan claimed, too that "Society did fine" before mental illness was widely understood, or, as he put it, "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."
To her immense credit, the caller stayed patient, pointing out that it's only recently that we've been able to map the brain and learn about mental illness, and that plenty of people with mood disorders work hard, even if, like her, they have to take medication five times a day to stay healthy. (She basically had to talk as though she was explaining things to a monstrously petty and cruel toddler, which...)
The woman added that mental health treatment had literally kept her alive: "I know that personally I would not be alive today if it were not for medications and for therapy," she said. Because I would have killed myself. When I was in college, I was there, I almost did it."
Sullivan's response was, naturally, exceedingly sensitive: "You ever think that maybe, maybe somebody's talked you into feeling and thinking this way?"
In conclusion, please don't ever listen to Fox Business Radio, unless you're elderly, housebound and literally unable to get up and change the station, in which case please call me and I'll gladly do it for you free of charge.
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