Mental Illness, Candidates, Guns

There it is again — this time, “serious people” are talking on TV about the mental health of Donald Trump. Is he unbalanced? Unstable? Psychopathic? How else can you explain his very bizarre behavior?

And — not to be outdone (or, in the now-common “oh yeah? well, so’s your old man!” debating style) — Trump is claiming that Hillary Clinton is unbalanced, unstable, a little crazy.

This, of course, all comes on the heels of a now-standard instant-analysis of any mass shooting event. The perpetrator is mentally ill (or was, since the perp is usually a fatal victim by this time). We should not control guns — we need to keep them out of the hands of the mentally ill. We need more mental health programs.

Of course, these psychological and psychiatric diagnoses are sputtered out in the public by people who (a) have no idea what the symptoms of mental illness look like, (b) have never examined the person they are talking about (or, in most case, examined anyone), (c) probably don’t realize that there are one or two people who are struggling with mental illness in their own circles.

Still, “serious people” are using this term — “mentally ill” — to excuse, or to blame, or to predict, all kinds of behavior that they just don’t agree with or don’t understand or didn’t expect.

This article in Huffington Post asks the obvious question: Does Donald Trump have to be mentally ill to say and do bad things? Does anyone?

More importantly, what message does it send about people who are fighting with mental illnesses? We all know people who are struggling, and sometimes there are psychological or psychiatric elements to that struggle. Do headlines about “crazy” candidates or “crazy” killers push these people deeper into themselves and into the shadows?

Drawing a correlation between Trump’s behavior and mental illness alienates the majority of people with a mental health disorder. It implies that their diagnosis is clearly a character flaw and even encourages others to assume that mental illness is dangerous.

“Broad generalizations about a specific group of people, like those with mental illness, are so troubling because they can lead to that group being harshly pre-judged and discriminated against,” Gregory Dalack, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, previously told HuffPost.

People with mental health disorders live normal and productive lives, and their illness is not a scapegoat for awful behavior in the public eye.

I agree with the article’s conclusion: Sometimes — maybe most of the time — someone is just a bully, just a racist, just a pig, just a jackass, or just pissed off.

 

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