There have been recent unsubstantiated claims that President Donald Trump is mentally ill. These claims, as well as quips suggesting that the president may be crazy, ramped up on Thursday when Trump held a press conference where he uttered more than a few peculiar remarks. But mental health experts have warned about the dangers of suggesting America’s 45th president may have some form of mental illness.
On Thursday, Trump held a press conference that was ostensibly meant to introduce his choice for Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta. However, this presser soon found the president vocally criticizing mainstream media, uttering remarks such as “the news is fake because so much of the news is fake” and “the leaks are real,” as Bustle recalled.
Due to these comments, accusations of Donald Trump being mentally ill had spread like wildfire as the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel lampooned the conference on late night television. On the most recent episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers, the popular host offered his analysis of the last Trump presser, which The Independent had quoted in brief in a recent report.
“By 1 p.m. today we had a draft about Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare that we felt good about. But then Donald Trump held what can only be scribed as a batsh*t crazy press conference.”
Those quips, however, referred to the press conference being crazy, and didn’t exactly allude to Donald Trump having some sort of mental illness. There have been actual accusations suggesting Trump may need some sort of professional help, including one from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who told the Huffington Post earlier this month that he plans to file a bill requiring that the White House employ a psychiatrist, with Trump’s supposedly “disturbing” behavior underscoring the potential bill’s importance.
That’s not even mentioning the latest anti-Trump petition on Change.org, supposedly filed by mental health professionals who accuse Trump of being psychologically unfit to serve his duties as U.S. President. But other mental health experts believe that it’s not a good idea to paint a picture of Donald Trump being crazy, regardless of one’s opinion of him.
In an interview with the Boston Herald, Duke University professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Allen Frances said that criticizing Trump on psychological grounds is not the way to protect American democracy. And, as the man who headed the team defining the criteria for all major mental disorders, he believes that Trump isn’t a true narcissist per definition.
“Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them.”
There’s also the suggestion that the use of the term “crazy” could potentially stigmatize mental illness sufferers. Mental Health America vice president of Policy and Programs Theresa Nguyen told Bustle that people have a tendency to make accusations of mental illness against someone if they’re angry with the person, or if they sense that the person is acting differently from what is normally expected.
— Raw Story (@RawStory) February 16, 2017
More tellingly, psychologist Erika Martinez, who also spoke to Bustle, said that calling Donald Trump mentally ill may have some unintended consequences – stigmatizing people who are confirmed to suffer from mental health problems.
“I don’t think — I know. When you stigmatize one person for their mental illness, you run the risk of stigmatizing other people.”
In addition to the above expert opinions, Quartz wrote an op-ed on Saturday, suggesting that the numerous “armchair diagnoses” made for Trump are a “disservice” to the art of psychology. Writer Olivia Goldhill opined that while Trump’s recent actions, words, and policies are “clearly concerning” and deserving of criticism, it’s not right either to accuse Donald Trump of being mentally ill — in her words, she finds this practice to be “ridiculous” and unwarranted.
“Even with a personal examination and all the relevant information, the current methods of diagnosing mental illness fail to acknowledge grey zones and are subject to debate,” wrote Quartz’s Goldhill, stressing that the study of mental health is “highly nuanced.”
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]