Experts Speaking on Trump’s Mental State Failing to Reduce Stigma

Last week at Yale, dozens of mental health experts stepped forward with a statement that Donald Trump was “paranoid and delusional” and that this “dangerous mental illness” made him unfit for the presidency.

In doing so, these experts violated a professional norm (the Goldwater Rule, preventing professionals from publicly speaking out about people who they have not personally treated), but even worse increased the stigma of mental health.

These types of outcries from professionals in the field are enhancing the “us vs. them” dynamic, the mentally fit vs. the mentally ill, the capable vs. the incapable.

In February, a group of 33 experts wrote to the New York Times stating “We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

Speaking so controversially about such a public (and himself controversial) figure will ensure that these statements are heard and read.

The challenge I have found with these recent statements is that there is no discussion of treatment. These behaviors are treated as absolutes, with no hope for healing.

Not only does this send a dangerous message to those across the country (and world) struggling with mental health illnesses, but it also reinforces the common narrative of the dangerousness and fixed nature of such disorders.

If these experts truly do believe that Trump is a danger to the people, I feel comfortable with them expressing so; however, within such a public forum, these statements need to be made with the health and safety of all who suffer from mental illness in mind. There needs to be an acknowledgement about the present stigma, and careful wording to avoid supporting that narrative.

For more, there’s a great article on ideas.ted.com that explores how to talk about mental health responsibly in ways that can reduce stigma and create a safer environment for the 1 in 4 people who suffer from a mental disorder.

Photo Credit: HealthyPlace.com

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