‘Mentally ill’ does not describe Trump

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The 2016 election was anything but normal and has left the United States in a state of heightened tensions. When the president who wins an election loses the popular vote, political polarization runs rampant and scrutiny is microscopic. Donald Trump has the lowest approval ratings of any recent president. While criticism for Trump arises from a variety of actions and statements, the criticism that paints news headlines is that he is mentally unfit to be President of the United States. Not only is this claim false, but it insults the mentally ill and further stigmatizes mental illness.

A number of psychologists and psychiatrists have spoken out against Trump, stating that he is a narcissist and mentally unfit for office. A number have even signed a petition that has garnered over 35,000 signatures calling for the diagnosis of Trump. Thirty-five mental health professionals then took it a step further, and published an article in The New York Times declaring that Trump is emotionally unfit to be president of the United States without being personally examined by them.

The declaration of these mental health professionals violates the Goldwater Rule. The Goldwater Rule does not allow psychiatrists to speak publicly about the mental health of person of media attention unless they have examined this person and have received permission to release a statement. This rule does not technically apply to psychologists, but they should also practice it to avoid further stigmatization of mental illness.

If these psychologists were actually concerned with President Trump’s well-being and were not politically motivated, they would have attempted to contact to President Trump for an examination. Or, had they felt that had sufficient evidence already to diagnose him, they would have contacted his office regarding his diagnosis. They would have offered steps on how to lessen the effects of his condition. But instead, they published a letter in The New York Times, diagnosing him with a mental illness that even the psychologist who helped create the criteria for diagnosing narcissism does not think Trump has. Allen Frances, who helped categorize narcissism, notes that “he may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill because he does not suffer from the stress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.” Simply put, he is selfish, but he’s not mentally ill.

Labeling Trump as mentally ill is a lame attempt to delegitimatize the president. He is not mentally ill, and mental health professionals need to refrain from giving ill informed opinions on politicians. There are a fair amount of valid criticisms — from not allowing certain news organizations into press briefings to the expensive, illogical wall — that there is no need to resort to lowness of calling President Trump mentally unstable. Even if his policies were not seriously flawed, mental illness is not something to hold against someone you disagree with.

Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness show that one in five Americans suffer from mental illness, and less than half receive help. Mental health professionals know this, so the fact that they still label Trump as mentally unstable only adds to the damage. People need to be encouraged to seek help, and these insults only make it more difficult for those suffering to reach out.

Trump has his own history of ostracizing those who he disagrees with (let’s not forget he championed the the birther movement against President Obama), but that does not mean anyone should stoop to this level. Mental illness is a real issue in America, and a group many of those who are against President Trump have vowed to protect. Labeling the President of the United States mentally ill, when he is clearly not, directly contradicts this. Americans seem to forget that while we all have difference in opinion, at the end of the day, we all want what is best for this great country. Let’s leave the name-calling and played-out insults outside of political discussions, and instead focus on the issues at stake under President Trump: immigration, healthcare, education, and most importantly, free speech.