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2 'Huuuge' Reasons We Should Stop Trying to Diagnose Donald Trump

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This past weekend, I did something I promised myself I would not do. I got involved with the American election – even though I am a Canadian. As a part of my self-care, I try to steer clear of getting to involved in things I cannot affect the outcome of. But, I was brought in when people started to talk about Donald Trump’s supposed mental health issues. I got involved in telling off the journalists and citizens of the internet who are determined diagnose him for two main reasons.

1. You don’t actually know the guy

This seems obvious, but most (if not everyone) reading this have never met Donald Trump. We see the media portrayal of him — the one he and the media craft to get us talking and writing about him (including me right now… ew). A lot of people (including medical professionals) want to get in the media and express their frustrations with Donald, which is fine. What is not fine, is when you start trying to diagnosis someone you have never met.

What’s the big deal?

So diagnosing someone from their media presence is called armchair diagnosing. We’ve also seen this after an individual commits a horrible crime, and everyone assumes the perpetrator had a mental illness. The media seems to suggest the worst sides of humanity are all mentally ill — when we actually don’t have any proof from medical professionals they are. In fact, people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.

Moreover, being diagnosed with a mental health concern (when done correctly) takes a few meetings with medical professionals. Even when it’s not done well, it still takes a meeting with a doctor (usually a psychiatrist) to assess you and tell you what they think would be the most helpful. It’s simply not possible to figure out if someone’s ill without actually meeting them and talking to them. Replace mental illness with any other illness — would you trust the internet telling you someone had another illness? Probably not.

2. He is not representative of people with mental health concerns.

I can hear people saying, “But he acts so strange and erratic… no one sane would have these thoughts!”

No. Stop right there. Remember that at least 1 in 5 adults (in both the U.S. and Canada) have a mental health conditions. That’s 20 to 25 percent of the population. There is only one Donald Trump — so even if he was living with a mental health concern — he would be an outlier and not the rule.

As a community, people living with mental health concerns are a diverse set of folks who have diverse coping skills, most of whom you would not be able to pick out of a crowd. The stereotype of mental illness was not created by the actions of people with mental illness, but by the media armchair diagnosing folks whose actions we don’t understand with mental health concerns — and TV shows and movies depicting folks living with mental illness in the same way.

Why does this matter?

It matters because this stereotype does a lot of harm. The idea that mental illness makes you an awful person keeps a lot of people from asking for the help they need. Two out of three people who need support, will never ask for it because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. This doesn’t help the already rising suicide rates (60 percent increase in the last 45 years). The honest truth is (like I said above) most people living with mental illness you wouldn’t be able to spot because we are just like everyone else.

People want to dismiss Trump based on his “mental health,” but what they are really saying is that they don’t like him and how he acts. Judge him for that and vote against him. Don’t discriminate a population of amazing and resilient people in the process — because we have to deal with a lack of services, crippling stigma, our actual illness and still aren’t allowed to fully talk about our experience openly. We do not need to be compared to Donald Trump.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

Lead photo: Donald J Trump

Originally published: August 9, 2016
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