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Donald Trump - Is This What Mental Illness Looks Like?

06/02/2017 16:02 | Updated 07 February 2017
Carlos Barria / Reuters

Is Donald Trump a nutter? Does he need to be sectioned? According to a small number of self-designated 'celebrity' psychologists he is. Articles breaking down the Trump's symptoms have been widely circulated on social media attracting delighted caws of fear and loathing. Finally we can explain why Donald Trump is behaving the way he is...

And for those of us working on the front-line with people affected by mental ill-health we once again have to sit down and reassure them that the world doesn't fear or loathe them. This time it is really, really hard to do so with any conviction.

Jo Hemmings, a celebrity/behaviour/dating (?!) psychologist is not actually qualified and registered in any meaningful way but her self-designated title is convincing enough for our post-truth times. And when so called 'experts' like her say that Donald Trump is afflicted with a condition that so few truly understand, people nod sagely and believe them. As Professor Peter Kinderman, President of the British Psychological Society, so succinctly says:

"Trump should be judged, and condemned, as any other politician would be, on his political decisions. Attempting to use a diagnostic approach to understand and confront President Trump is wrong on many levels. I am sceptical of the validity of psychiatric diagnosis per se, and I agree with those colleagues who condemn arms-length celebrity pseudo-diagnosis. But I'd go further. We should not smear those of us struggling with psychological problems by association with people of the calibre of Donald Trump. There is nothing contemptible about problems that lead to the use of diagnostic labels in our work in mental health. There is a lot contemptible in Donald Trump's behaviour, and the two issues should be kept entirely separate."

It is too easy to pathologize bad behaviour with psychobabble and in this instance it hurts real people; it is just highbrow name calling from someone out to make a fast buck at the expense of a vulnerable group of people.

Donald Trump isn't what mental illness looks like, but his 'diagnosis' is certainly what stigma looks like and often that stigma is the worst part of having a mental illness and the biggest challenge to recovery from it. How can a person truly recover when no-one will employ them for example?

Here on the front-line my colleagues and I are once again donning battle gear to persuade employers, insurers, policy-makers, teachers, friends, family, community services and all the other people and providers that make true recovery a possibility, that mental illness is not something to be feared. Donald Trump... well, that's another story.

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