This week, virtually every news outlet, late night talk show, stand-up comic, social media outlet, and magazine has commented on the mental state of President Donald J. Trump. Comments range from “insane” to “mentally ill” to “mentally unstable” to “off his meds” to “disturbed” to “crazy” to a whole slew of inflammatory and derogatory terms. Now, I normally have no reason to blog about The Donald or Sir Donald or whatever it is people have dubbed him, but I cannot let this one slide. I’m morally compelled to discuss the discussion of his mental state.
Regardless of the tone of his press conferences, his behavior, his responses to reporters or his actions, it’s unfair to diagnose his or anyone’s mental health.After all we are simply but group of people observing him and his public persona. Mental disorders need to be observed and understood both publicly AND privately. What’s even more disturbing is that is become socially acceptable to make fun of it. We don’t know for a fact if he has a mental health disorder. Only a licensed mental health care professional can officially diagnose this and it’s not something they diagnose on a whim either. There’s criteria that must be met; symptoms and behaviors one must have in order to clinically receive a diagnosis. And then there is a range; a spectrum for each disorder. It’s not cut and dry, black and white. I have repeatedly heard several mental health advocate friends comment on Trump’s behavior but not a SINGLE one has ever alluded to him have a mental health disorder because they know that this is not the way individuals are diagnosed (so BRAVO friends!)
This brings us to the jokes about him being “on meds.” Not all individuals with mental illness need to take medication and not all people who take medication have a mental illness. Comments and jokes like this are what perpetuate stigma; they force people into shame. If someone is having a rough day, they get teased about “being off their meds.” Well, anyone who’s ever been on medication knows you just don’t change overnight.
For me this is not a politically charged argument. I couldn’t care if he were Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Vegetarian, or Librarian. It’s not fair to diagnose something we don’t know, especially because the “diagnosis” isn’t being done out of an abundance of caution or care. It’s being done to serve as a punchline; as political fodder. We wouldn’t do this with any other illness. We wouldn’t watch a White House Presser and say, “It was awful. His responses were insane. I bet he has cancer” or “Only someone with diabetes behaves and responds like that.” We shouldn’t do it with mental illness either.