If you’ve been watching the Republican debates and following these candidates, you probably picked up on the fact that they’re not stellar human beings. Trump is a bully with limited understanding on how economics or statehood work, thinking that by being himself he can violate international law and force other countries to spend huge sums on his personal agenda. Ben Carson habitually lies and spouts prejudiced nonsense, most frequently against Muslims and women. Carly Fiorina is against women’s health and pads her resume to seem like an economic and foreign policy giant. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio routinely appeal to the Christian right’s fears, demonizing anyone they feel goes against their religious views. The list goes on.
But having views that I disagree with and being an asshole don’t make any one of these candidates “insane” (i.e., without a clear grasp of reality) or suffering from a mental illness. Most likely, they’re projecting a two dimensional personality to sucker people into believing and agreeing with them, working with faulty facts and understanding, or simply lying to advance their personal agenda, which both Democrats and Independents do and still does not mean they’re suffering from a mental illness.
However, one writer, Bill Palmer from Daily News Bin, thinks, “Ben Carson is almost certainly suffering from a mental illness. It’s time we address the matter.” This article, written about a month ago, asserts that Ben Carson is “fully insane” and has a “full blown mental illness.” Most recently, he’s posited that Ben Carson is suffering from “A Beautiful Mind syndrome” after the movie A Beautiful Mind loosely based on the mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who combated schizophrenia for the majority of his life.
These two articles, especially the first, are gross, crude, invasive, reductive, and show a complete lack of understanding of mental illness. First off, “insane” is a medically obsolete term that has zero correlation with any illness. It is solely used as a loose and antiquated legal defense or for jackasses like Palmer to throw around whenever they don’t understand or like someone.
Second, it is wildly inappropriate to throw around conjecture about a person’s mental condition, regardless of how they’re acting or what they’re saying. A person’s mind should be the most inviolable part of them. It is certainly their most unknowable part, and no one but the person themself or their doctor has any business delving into it.
Third, it is reductive and woefully inaccurate to label a person as mentally ill just because they hold a contrary viewpoint, have an unusual physical tic, or display a lack of mental acuity. Sleep deprivation, medication, recreational drug use, physical ailments, stress, and a lack of correct facts can account for all these things.
Fourth, it is discriminatory to assume that a person is unfit for office because they have a mental illness. There is no reason why a person with a mental illness cannot hold office. Therapy, medication, and good support networks can go a long way towards putting a person in remission and helping them live an unburdened life.
Fifth, “mental illness” is not one disease with a certain set of symptoms and diagnosis. Rather, mental illnesses are wide and varied with numerous symptoms that dramatically differ from person to person, where a person is in a downward cycle, what kind of support network they have, and whether or not they’re getting the correct medication.
Finally, if you’re too lazy to look up John Nash’s actual disease (It was fucking schizophrenia, you jackass, not “A Beautiful Mind syndrome.”) and your only experience with mental illness is a Goddamn Ron Howard movie, you need to shut your mouth and go to the back of the class. You know less than nothing about mental illness and people with mental illness, and you have zero right to throw out a term that is inflammatory, stigmatizing, and hurtful.
This kind of behavior is utterly inappropriate and only further contributes to the marginalization that people with mental illnesses already face. It is unacceptable for us to continue to see mental illness as a disqualifying condition for anything. It is unacceptable for us to call people that we disagree with or find illogical “insane.” And it is utterly, completely unacceptable to wildly speculate about a person’s mental condition. Our minds are our own and no one has the right to violate them.
Get fucked, Bill Palmer.
* Photo taken from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/25/stigma-of-mental-illness/9875351/