Psychiatry Org Reminds Members: Feel Free To Comment On Trump Mental State


I would typically say that it's good practice for a mental health professional to abstain from commenting on someone's mental health unless they've interviewed them personally, but like so many things in our system, that rule doesn't account for a Trumpian figure.

For example, in July's Washington Monthly, Nassir Ghaemi, a psychiatrist at Tufts and Harvard universities, said the Goldwater Rule has censored psychiatrists, and that's a problem because if "our current president has a psychiatric condition, it's useful to know how it might have helped him reach his current place of power, and also how it potentially could direct his actions as president". It seems perfectly suited to prevent politically biased shrinks from simply saying whoever is opposing their candidate of choice is insane, but it doesn't seem well suited to protect the people of the United States from someone who is truly a mentally unfit danger to our nation.

Still opposed: The American Psychiatric Association reiterated that its own policy is unchanged. "The field of psychoanalysis addresses the full spectrum of human behavior, and we feel that our concepts and understanding are applicable and valuable to understanding a wide range of human behaviors and cultural phenomenon".

Tene said the original email sent to Association members earlier this month can be found here.

The American Psychoanalytic Association, a leading psychiatry group in the USA, told its 3,500 members that they can comment on the mental state of politicians, including President Donald Trump. The committee clarified that the rule applies to all professional opinions offered by psychiatrists, not just diagnoses.

Thirty-three psychiatrists wrote a letter to The New York Times on February 13 stating that Trump's "grave emotional instability" showed he couldn't safely govern the country. The issue first emerged in 1964, when Fact Magazine published a piece where some polled psychiatrists declared that then-presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president.

Around half of psychiatrists surveyed said they did not believe the Republican candidate for President Barry Goldwater was psychologically fit to serve, calling him "unpredictable" "emotionally unstable" and "a unsafe lunatic!" Goldwater successfully sued for libel, and thus the "Goldwater Rule" was born.

But pressure has been mounting for psychology professionals to weigh in on the President's mental state. In fact, for decades the State Department and other federal agencies have asked psychiatrists to offer their views on the psychological state of foreign leaders, Glass pointed out, evidence that government officials believe it is possible to make informed inferences about mental states based on public behavior and speech.

This seems insane (pardon the pun) to me, and it seems that another group of mental health professionals agree.

The Goldwater Rule states it is unethical for people to diagnose public figures they have not examined. But this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to anxious journalists and members of Congress at this critical time.

"In the case of Donald Trump, there is an extraordinary abundance of speech and behavior on which one could form a judgment", Glass said.

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