Goldwater Rule, Or Why It Is Not OK To Label Mr. Donald Trump Mentally Ill, According To Experts

July 3, 2018

Have you ever thought about Donald Trump’s mental health? Apparently, it’s not only you – the whole internet is full of articles regarding the President’s capability of running the country. Even the most prominent experts in the psychiatric field have been caught in the trap. However, according to Goldwater rule, the American Psychological Association members are not allowed to analyze publicly and offer their views regarding any public person’s mental status or apparent psychological traits.


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Petition against Donald Trump

Many experts want this rule to be rollbacked, as it violates the ethical side of the issue. They believe psychiatrists have a moral obligation or an affirmative responsibility to not publicly discuss the mental state of public figures and especially those with the power to prevent any possible harm to the society. Many of them wanted to share their opinion regarding then-candidate Mr. Trump back in 2016, yet they felt gagged by the formal rule.


More than 70,000 self-proclaimed mental health experts signed a petition created by John Gartner, Ph.D., which demands Trump’s impeachment, as he manifests a serious mental illness that makes him psychologically incompetent to serve the nation.


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Armchair psychiatry

There is, however, another side of the coin. According to Rob Whitley, Ph.D., there are many troubling aspects regarding labeling President Trump mentally ill and signing the petition. First off, it is impossible to make such diagnosis without an in-depth, in-person interview and several other tests. This makes armchair speculations basically unethical and unprofessional.

The other problem is that the petition seems to generalize and stigmatize people with mental disorders. In other words, everyone with mental health issues is incompetent, volatile, and erratic. The thing is, there are hundreds of different diseases in the mental health department, and you cannot turn them into one. Not to mention John Nash, who was an outstanding mathematician and, despite having schizophrenia, won a Nobel Prize.


Surely, anyone can say anything about Donald Trump’s character, as we are living in a free country. However, making a public statement regarding his mental health and capability of running the country is not only unethical but also unprofessional. Furthermore, slander and false accusations can cause damage to therapeutic relationships, making people less willing to seek help from a clinician.


We can blame or praise, love or hate Trump for his character, policies, or even overwhelming tweets, but let’s not judge his or anyone else’s mental health.

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Donald Trump