You’ll recall last week that Fox Radio host, Tom Sullivan, said on his January 28th show that bipolar disorder was a “fad” and “made up.” On February 4th, Sullivan posted to Facebook to say that his comments were “taken out of context” and that he believes “bipolar is real and is a mental illness needs to be treated.”
Here’s his full response:
A REPOST FROM YESTERDAY: I received a nice email from Gina about my comments. Here is my response to her: Gina,
Thank you for your email. May I tell you I have received a number of similar messages but usually laced with profanity. Your message stood out for the kindness of your words.
First, I need to tell you I do believe in bipolar disease. There is a two minute clip going around of my comments out of a two hour discussion. It is easy to take comments out of context. Of course I believe bipolar is real and is a mental illness that needs to be treated.
The program began with the subject being the huge increase in disability claims made to the Social Security Disability Fund which is going broke in 2016. The increase in claims is startling and the number one reason for the big increase in claims is mental illness and a subset (according the way Soc Security categorizes) of mood disorder.
All I was trying to do was to point out that out of that big increase I suspect there are people who are not sick but looking for a disability check.
My further point was by doing so, those people were hurting those who really are sick and need help, i.e. funding, treatments, etc.
I have for years advocated on my program for more funding and insurance coverage of mental illness. Too many have ignored it and as a result our jails are now the “mental institutions” where the people get zero help.
I apologize to those who were hurt by the clip of my comments. I am a somewhat jaded person who thinks some people are gaming our system due to their greed. But, I also believe mental illness is a very serious problem that is ignored by too many.
This episode shows how easy it is to distort a persons comments, especially when the subject is very important. It will and has reinforced my commitment to making mental illness on a equal par with physical illnesses instead of the stigma it currently receives.
Again, thank you for your email and your concern,
Media Matters for America (MMfA) posted a transcript of the 2 minute clip where he repeatedly told a caller that her bipolar disorder wasn’t real and that people shouldn’t receive disability benefits for depression or anxiety.
I would like to ask, which comments exactly were taken out of context?
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
These comments do not sound like they were spoken by someone who considers bipolar disorder to be a real “mental illness that needs to be treated.” These are comments made by someone who has not had direct lived experience with any mental health problems nor has he had to care for someone with mental health issues. Sullivan’s comments were made, whether intentionally or not, by someone deeply uneducated about mental health.
Whether or not he believes people with mental illness need disability benefits really isn’t the point (although it is a significant problem). The point is that he told someone who was trying to relate her lived experiences that she was wrong and in doing so, he discredited the lived experience of millions of people around the world. His comments reflect how many people think about mental health — that it doesn’t really exist and is “all in our heads” or created by Big Pharma to sell drugs.
Sullivan, and others who think just like him, are the reason I have to speak about my mental health. I do it for those who can’t and I will continue to shout about mental illness until I lose my voice and I will keep writing until my fingers fall off. I will keep talking about mental health until no one makes ignorant comments like Sullivan, whether intentional or not. I will continue to speak until people stop using mental health diagnoses as adjectives. I will continue to speak until people stop self-harming and committing suicide. I will continue to speak until everyone struggling with mental health feels comfortable speaking up and asking for help.