The speculation about Donald Trump’s mental health that was doing the rounds earlier in the year seems to have died down a bit. That’s to be expected; like it or not, his Presidency is now part of normal life. But I’ve been lagging in my blogging here, and so it’s only now that I’ve got a moment to mention in passing an op-ed article about Trump in the New Scientist that appeared just after I posted last on the topic. (February. I know, I know.)
It’s by Allen Frances, and it takes issue with what he calls “armchair diagnosis” of the president. He’s right to say that there’s something disquieting about armchair diagnosis: “psychiatric diagnosis is already done far too casually and inaccurately in medical and mental health practice. Armchair diagnosis further cheapens its currency.” However, I do wonder whether we ought to pay some attention to whose armchair it is. Often, it’s an armchair occupied by the genuinely ignorant, or the spiteful. That’s the internet for you. Accusing someone of being mentally ill or having a personality disorder on this account may be simply mistaken; or it may be intended as a jibe, the subtext of which is that there’s something shameful about having a mental health problem. But not every armchair is the same: as Frances’ article admits, a letter with 35 signatories who work within the mental health field appeared in the New York Times. That letter may be misguided, or ill-motivated. But it is by people who, presumably, know a thing or two about the topic. Their armchair is not my armchair.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.