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Bill O’Reilly and His War Against Mental Illness

Recently we wrote an article, "Shame on you, Fox News!" in which we pointed out that certain hosts of Fox News programs are rude, disrespectful, discriminate, and stigmatize individuals with a mental health illness. These hosts, in particular, Bill O’Reilly of "The O’Reilly Factor" grouped all people with a mental health illness into one category and then proceeded to demean them with statements such as, "Crazies do what crazies do."

On October 4, 2013, it became apparent to us that Mr. O’Reilly must have taken notice of the controversy surrounding his statements on the mentally ill with his talking points on "The O’Reilly Factor" that evening. On this show, Mr. O’Reilly attempted to inject some intelligence into his statements about mental illness by highlighting some statistics about mental illness including that it is estimated that 26 million Americans suffer from some kind of mental disorder and that the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) states that 6% of American adults have a serious mental illness. However, where are the facts and statistics showing what percentage of American adults with a serious mental illness commit acts of violence; what percentage are receiving appropriate and timely access to care; what the difference in outcomes for quality of life is for those who receive treatment vs. those who do not receive treatment; and how as cuts to mental health care have increased it has affected those with a mental illness?

Mr. O’Reilly shared his belief that there is simply no way any country can control mental illness. He elaborates further upon this by claiming that there is something happening that is making the problem worse. Mr. O’Reilly states that "There isn't a schizophrenia or bipolar club", and then moves right into stating there is "horrendous stuff on the internet readily available to anyone." Are you serious, Mr. O’Reilly? There is no real way to control lots of things in life, but society can implement changes to make things better, not worse. How can he claim that horrendous stuff available to anyone on the internet is what is making the problems surrounding mental illness worse? First of all, you are right that anyone can access anything on the internet. Why single out that those with a mental illness are the ones who will be accessing "horrendous" stuff? Have you even thought to think about the positives available with the internet? There are multiple groups, organizations, and websites that focus on mental health illness in positive ways – they inform and educate individuals on different mental illnesses, how to access treatment, how others (like teachers and parents) can work with and help a loved one with a mental illness; they provide true and correct facts and statistics regarding mental illness; and they provide support to those with a mental illness and their loved ones.

Mr. O’Reilly closes his session by stating that we should try and help the mentally ill, if we can. However, he completely ruins the sentiment of helping the mentally ill by sharing "The cold truth is that often there is little we can do and the only thing we can do is to protect ourselves against the mentally ill is to be very alert and aware that this problem is getting worse." It seems to me that Mr. O’Reilly is inciting fear – fear against the unknown and what we don’t understand. Is Mr. O’Reilly afraid of every person with a mental illness? Would he run and hide from Patty Duke or Robin Williams if they were at the same place he was since he would need to be alert, aware, and protect himself?

Given recent events and statements, we have to wonder if Fox News is starting a war against people with mental illnesses or if this is Mr. O’Reilly’s own personal vendetta? Is Mr. O’Reilly so lacking in intelligence about mental illness that he believes people with a mental illness should be feared and everyone else needs to protect themselves against the mentally ill that he has taken it upon himself to force his viewpoints on the American public and persuade them that they need to believe like he does?

We have been asked (primarily by our members, visitors to our website, and followers of our facebook page) if we would consider debating Mr. O’Reilly on the topic of mental illness. As with Mr. O’Reilly, who is well known for taking part in great intelligent debates, we value an intelligent debate. However, this would not be an intelligent debate with Mr. O’Reilly. He has nothing to bring to the table – no experience, scientific knowledge, education, or applicable facts on mental illness – all he would bring is his stigmatizing and disrespectful opinion that those with a mental illness are crazy and should be feared by everyone else. Maybe the next time Bill O’Reilly opens his rambling mouth, he should consider some more truthful and meaningful facts about mental illness, such as:

  • According to the National Institute on Mental Health, 1 in 17 people in America live with a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder, major depression, or schizophrenia. About 1 in 10 children live with a serious mental health illness.
    • Specifically, bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Approximately 2.4 million American adults, or about 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in a given year,have schizophrenia.
  • Between 92 and 96 percent of mental health patients don’t have violent tendencies, and studies show the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes themselves than the criminal perpetrators. In fact, histories of substance abuse and other socio-demographic and economic factors are stronger determinants of violent behavior than psychiatric disorders. The contribution of the mentally ill to overall crime rates is an extremely low 3 to 5 percent, a number much lower than that of substance abuse.
  • Attitudes (primarily negative) about mental health illness are a big barrier to care. These attitudes are often promoted by the entertainment and news media. In studies and research conducted by Mental Health American and Otto F. Wahl, Ph.D., professor at the University of Hartford's graduate university of psychology, the entertainment and news media tend to portray mental health illnesses in a negative fashion especially in respect to violence and the mentally ill.
    • Characters in prime time television portrayed as having a mental illness are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence.
    • Most news accounts portray people with mental illness as dangerous.
    • The vast majority of news stories on mental illness either focus on other negative characteristics related to people with the disorder (e.g., unpredictability and unsociability) or on medical treatments. Notably absent are positive stories that highlight recovery of many persons with even the most serious of mental illnesses.
  • According to a 2011 paper in the Health Affairs journal, the U.S. spends $113 billion or 5.6% of the national health-care spending on mental health illness.
  • Access to mental health care and mental health care professionals is worse than for any other types of medical services and medical providers. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor estimated that the U.S. had only 156,300 mental health counselors and that 89.3 million Americans live in federally-designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
  • In the three years (2009-2012) that President Obama has been in office, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) states that America has seen the largest reduction in funding in public mental health since the de-institutionalization phase of the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, during President Obama’s first three years, overall, states have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending.
  • The existence of appropriate services allows people with serious mental illnesses the opportunities to achieve recovery and independence. Lack of services and support often leads to worsened conditions with adverse consequences that can cost communities dearly. For children and adults who live with a serious mental illness, the consequences can include more frequent emergency room visits, hospitalizations, homelessness, encounters with juvenile and criminal justice systems, loss of critical development years, premature deaths, and suicides.
  • Since 2009 when President Obama took office, 3,222 psychiatric hospital beds are no longer available to patients. This is approximately 10% of all state psychiatric beds gone in just three years. Additional specific services that have been downsized or eliminated include those that are the most essential to assisting children and adults who live with a serious mental illness avoid crises and move towards recovery. These services include: Acute (emergency) & long-term hospital treatment; Targeted, intensive care management services; Crisis intervention teams and crisis stabilization programs; Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) programs; Supportive housing/assisted living; Targeted case management and clinic services for children and adolescents; and Access to psychiatric medications

In conclusion, we would like to say that we are not trying to paint Mr. O'Reilly as being a completely horrible person. Mr. O'Reilly has done a lot for many different people as evidenced in his continued and ongoing donations to and support of The Wounded Warrior Project, Doctors Without Borders, CASA, Best Friends Foundation, NYC Coalition for the Homeless, and Autism Speaks. What we would like to say to Mr. O'Reilly is that the mentally ill are people just like any others - they don't deserve to be treated negatively or based upon the actions of a few.

If you would like to read our first article mentioning Bill O'Reilly and mental illness,you can find it here: Shame on you, Fox News!.

For more information on the topic of mental health care, please read our article, The National Mental Health Care Crisis.


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