Fox Host Tells Caller Her Bipolar Disorder Is “Made Up” And “The Latest Fad” For Money
Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan told a caller who said she suffered from bipolar disorder that her illness is “something made up by the mental health business” and just “the latest fad.” When the caller told Sullivan that she “would not be alive today” if she hadn't received mental health treatment, Sullivan wondered if “maybe somebody's talked you into feeling and thinking this way.”
Sullivan, who is also a frequent Fox Business contributor and guest anchor, began his January 28 program by complaining that people with mental illness have figured how to “game the system” by receiving disability benefits. “They're mostly government employees and they know how to do it,” he added. Sullivan also defended Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) controversial and false statement that “Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.”
A caller later challenged Sullivan over his remarks, saying she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder thirteen years ago and mental health treatment allowed her to graduate from college and obtain a full-time job. The caller, who now volunteers with Stop Stigma Sacramento, noted that bipolar disorder isn't a made up illness and is biological.
Sullivan responded by telling her, “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.”
He added that bipolar disorder is “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.”
The caller told Sullivan bipolar disorder “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.” Sullivan replied: “You ever think that maybe, maybe somebody's talked you into feeling and thinking this way?”
Fox News Radio headlined the segment on their website: "(AUDIO) Bipolar Woman Says She DESERVES Disability Benefits. Tom Tells Her She's WRONG!" The site also put up a stock photo of a woman in a bathrobe watching TV on her couch.
Sullivan's remarks are factual garbage.
The American Psychological Association states that “Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.” The National Institute of Mental Health similarly notes that “Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness” and “If not treated, bipolar disorder can lead to damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.”
False and incendiary remarks like those from Sullivan only contribute to stigma surrounding mental illness. USA Today spoke with health advocates and professionals for a series on this stigma and noted it “forces many to live in shame rather than seek support, even as their lives unravel. Yet patients who want help often can't find it, says [former Rep. Patrick] Kennedy, who has acknowledged his own struggles with bipolar disorder and drug addiction.”
The Mayo Clinic notes that “False beliefs about mental illness can cause significant problems” including “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” and “Bullying, physical violence or harassment.”
From the January 28 edition of Fox News Radio's The Tom Sullivan Show:
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?
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.
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.
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 --
SULLIVAN: You ever think that maybe, maybe somebody's talked you into feeling and thinking this way?
CALLER: I wish. No.