Some U.S. psychiatrists at a conference held at Yale’s School of Medicine on Thursday sounded the alarm that they have reasons to believe that President Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness.” Some at the conference concluded that Trump was dangerously unstable, being clearly “paranoid and delusional.”
Reacting to criticism from Republicans who said that the pronouncements of the mental health experts at the conference violated professional ethical standards, the psychiatrists argued that it was their “ethical responsibility” as experts to warn the public about the grave dangers of Trump’s presidency due to his mental instability.
“We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness,” said Dr. John Gartner, a psychotherapist who has worked at John Hopkins University Medical School.
Gartner is well-known as the outspoken mental health professional who once described Trump as a “psychiatric Frankenstein monster.”
“We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.”
Gartner and other mental health experts at the conference agreed that Trump suffers from a malignant form of narcissism which makes him a dangerous person to have as president. Earlier in the year, Gartner started an online petition, calling for Trump’s removal from office on the grounds that he is “psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President.”
The petition has reportedly received more than 40,000 signatures.
“We, the undersigned mental health professionals, believe in our professional judgment that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States,” the petition said. “And we respectfully request he be removed from office, according to article 4 of the 25th amendment to the Constitution, which states that the president will be replaced if he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’.”
Gartner is also a member of the a group called Duty to Warn, which consists of mental health professionals who believe that Trump is mentally unfit to perform the duties of the commander in chief.
Gartner argued that several incidents in the past show that Trump is delusional, paranoid and grandiose. During Thursday’s conference, he cited the incident in which Trump insisted, despite indisputable evidence, that the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever.
“Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President.”
Another attendee at the conference, Dr. James Gilligan, is a psychiatry professor at New York University. Gilligan said that he has observed Trump’s erratic behavior and that he found the evidence of his mental illness deeply disturbing. He said he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s mental health symptoms despite having extensive experience working with and diagnosing some of the most dangerous people in society, including murderers and rapists.
“I’ve worked with murderers and rapists, I can recognize dangerousness from a mile away,” Gilligan said. “You don’t have to be an expert on dangerousness or spend fifty years studying it like I have in order to know how dangerous this man is.”
However, psychiatrists and mental health professionals are generally advised, as part of the ethics of their profession, to refrain from diagnosing public figures they have not had the opportunity to examine personally. Some mental health professionals therefore criticized the conference, saying that it violated the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater rule” which recommends that mental health professionals should not publicly offer diagnostic opinions on persons, especially public figures, they have not examined personally.
Connecticut Republican Party chairman, J.R. Romano, also condemned the conference, saying that professional opinions expressed by some of the experts at the conference amounted to “throwing ethical standards out the window because they cannot accept the election results.”
But Gartner responded to the criticisms, saying that the argument that mental health professionals need to personally interview someone before they can form a diagnosis was mistaken.
“This notion that you need to personally interview someone to form a diagnosis actually doesn’t make a whole lotta sense,” he said. “For one thing, research shows that the psychiatric interview is the least statistical reliable way to make a diagnosis.”
A spokesperson for Yale University also insisted that the conference did not violate the “Goldwater rule,” but rather that organizers were “troubled” by the “silencing of debate” over questions about Trump’s mental health.
“The panel at Yale School of Medicine abided by ‘the Goldwater rule’. Eminent psychiatrists were invited to speak about whether there are other ethical rules that override it, as in ordinary practice.”
“The organizer, Dr. Bandy Lee, agrees with the Goldwater rule but is troubled by its recent expansion and the silencing of debate,” the Yale spokesperson continued. “She hopes that the public and politicians will understand that mental health issues are not to be used as a weapon, just as other health issues are not.”
Lee, an assistant clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, told fellow mental health professionals at the conference that it was dangerous for them to remain silent about their expert insight into the mental health condition of the man occupying the highest office in the country. She insisted that experts have a duty to warn the public.
“As some prominent psychiatrists have noted, [Trump’s mental health] is the elephant in the room. I think the public is really starting to catch on and widely talk about this now.”
The conference concluded that even if speakers at the conference had breached professional ethical standards through their statements, they had no choice because “too much was at stake.”
[Featured Image by Pool/Shutterstock]