I’ve read quite an interesting article in a German newspaper (ZEIT) today on psychologists ascribing all kinds of psychological problems to presidential candidate Donald Trump, and whether that’s okay. (Apparently, there’s a rule dating back to a similar approach to the 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater saying that psychologists should not make diagnoses without personally examining a person, but then there’s experts that say that, because nowadays we see so much of a person through social media, that rule is partially outdated and it’s okay to analyse however a person presents themselves to the world…)
What they’re trying to do of course is ensure that Trump can’t run for presidency anymore, which of course, would be great, but still I feel like it follows a trend I’ve seen loads recently, especially in German media and that really pisses me off.
Mental illness is not talked about a lot generally, but when it comes up, it’s always in the context of terrible people or giant assholes and just feels like a good excuse for people to not talk about actual problems. Need examples?
In July 2016, an 18-year-old shot nine people in a shopping centre in Munich before killing himself, an event which dominated German news reports for days. We’re not even going to get into how everyone just JUMPED at the fact that his parents were immigrants from Iran, what I want to talk about is the fact that different hypotheses and analyses on his mental health were just engrossing the conversation.
It just felt like a whole country going “How is it even possible for a person to do something that terrible? I don’t understand… oh, you mean he had problems? Anxiety and social anxiety issues? ADHD? Well, that’s quite a relief then. I was starting to get a bit uncomfortable here.”
And back fell the world into a comfortable black-and-white sketch, no need to talk about how he was bullied or that he sympathised with far-right politics (like, literally Nazi-ideology), not even a conversation on how to improve treatment of mentally ill teenagers, just satisfaction with being able to comprehend the world still.
Similarly I could have dissected public discourse after the precipitated plane crash in the Alps in March 2015 and other well-covered events.
So now that there’s a massive asshole running for president in America, it’s apparently time for the magic cure-all psychology again. Let’s find him a reassuring psychological issue, bam, problem solved.
Well, I’m sorry to tell you, world, but I don’t think it’s that easy. The problem is not how- or whoever Donald Trump is, but that there are people who are so frustrated by established politics that they consider him a genuine alternative.
So there you go. I definitely want mental illness to be talked about, loads if you please. But not as a comforting way to explain stuff and not get into actual problems. What the world needs is not demonization, but representation. Thanks.