Fighting the Stigmatizing Remarks of Geraldo Rivera
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Bipolar Bites

Bipolar blogger Natasha Tracy offers exclusive insight into the world of bipolar disorder.

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Fighting the Stigmatizing Remarks of Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera. Photo courtesy of SRintoul via WikiCommonsI don’t watch the news and I most especially don’t watch Fox News. Now, if you enjoy that sort of thing, that’s your business, but I find the news rife with stigmatizing remarks about mental illness. This spreading of stigma leads to prejudice and discrimination of people with a mental illness that I want no part of.

And Geraldo Rivera made one such remark Sept. 12 that I would like to address, as it is both derogatory towards people with mood disorders and people on Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Geraldo Rivera’s Remark on the O’Reilly Factor

Rivera’s remark stated that people with a “bad back” or people with a “mood disorder” could get SSI and then he and O’Reilly incredulously stated how ridiculous this is. Now, I can’t comment people with bad backs, but I can say that people with mood disorders deserve SSI in some cases and very often can’t get it.

What are Mood Disorders?

Now, part of the reason why I think Rivera made this remark is because I suspect he has no idea what a mood disorder is. He seems to think that a mood disorder is a minor issue involving one’s mood. We know, however, that mood disorders include bipolar disorder and major depression and these are very serious disorders that absolutely can be disabling. Doctors (not uninformed pundits) say:

  • “Bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness (MDI), is one of the most common, severe, and persistent mental illnesses.”
  • “[bipolar] is a severely impairing illness that affects many aspects of patients' lives.”
  • “Bipolar disorder has significant morbidity and mortality rates. In the United States during the early part of the 1990s, the cost of lost productivity resulting from this bipolar disorder was estimated at approximately $15.5 billion annually.”
  • “Approximately 25-50% of individuals with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, and 11% actually commit suicide.”

Now, I ask Mr. Rivera, how likely is it that he would be able to keep his job during the time around a suicide attempt? (And yes, many people keep their jobs even through suicide attempts, but I’d like to see Rivera try it.)

Bipolar Disorder and Supplemental Security Income

And as for people with bipolar disorder getting SSI? That is hardly a given. Even when a person with bipolar disorder becomes non-functional (as determined by a doctor), it can still be extremely difficult for them to qualify for SSI and it can take six months of longer for them to get approved.

Moreover, in spite of what irate Fox pundits would have you believe, the vast majority of people on SSI don’t want to be on SSI. There absolutely is a stigma against being on SSI and even if there shouldn’t be, people feel this this powerful stigma every day.

Fighting Geraldo Rivera’s Uninformed Remarks

Geraldo Rivera’s remarks were made fun of on the Colbert Report and I appreciate Colbert bringing this matter to my attention, but I suspect a humorous remark on one show isn’t enough to undo the damage caused by a hateful remark on another. 

The only way I know to combat that kind of blatantly ignorant remark is through education. And I can’t do it alone. I need you.

Speak out. Don’t let remarks like these go unaddressed. Don’t let someone, just because they’re on TV, erode the respect we have worked so hard to earn.

Tweet Rivera and tell him how wrong he is or just fight his ignorance through the spreading of real facts about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Because while I, personally, can’t make the kind of impact that Rivera can on TV, together, en masse, we can.

We can fight this ignorance and we can win.

Photo courtesy of SRintoul via WikiCommons.

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About the Author

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer who specializes in writing about bipolar disorder.