Question: Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill?

Donald Trump

Answer: I have no idea. And neither do you (NB: for the purposes of this article I am assuming you, the reader, have never treated the current sitting U. S. president in the capacity of a medical professional, nor do you have extensive, first-hand, personal experience with the man).

Have you ever said or written or tweeted that Donald Trump is mentally ill, and therefore should immediately be removed from the office of president of the United States? If so, you’re in good company. John Zinner, a psychiatrist who has never treated Donald Trump, has been leading the charge to have the Goldwater rule reversed. The Goldwater rule refers to what is actually Section 7 in American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics that prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures that they have not personally treated. It got its name after being put into effect when a hit piece on Goldwater signed by medical health professionals, insisted he was psychologically unfit to be president. Side note: it wasn’t put into effect because people thought the ethics of diagnosing a person a doctor had never treated was extremely questionable, so much as because after it happened, Goldwater sued the editor of the magazine for libel and won $75,000 (over half a million in today’s money).

John Zinner has said that because he has sworn an oath to protect his patients, it is his duty to speak out on what he has diagnosed as Trump’s “narcissistic personality disorder.” He has gone so far as to say that it is the psychiatrist’s role to put a check on Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons. The New Yorker quotes him as saying, “it’s an existential survival issue.” I mean, I’m not a doctor or anything, but a psychiatrist insisting that it’s his responsibility to prevent nuclear war and solve this existential survival issue kind of sounds like he’s suffering from some of the symptoms of a certain mental illness. Ok that was kind of low, but many other doctors weren’t concerned about this sort of rhetoric. They met up in Washington D. C. and San Diego to review whether the Goldwater rule should stay in effect. A panel was held at Yale Medical School. A Maryland psychiatrist formed an organization called Duty to Warn and created a petition on for “medical professionals” to sign, saying “Trump is Mentally Ill and Must be Removed.” Personally, I think that petition would serve as a great resource listing people who should most definitely never treat the mentally ill under any circumstances.

Look, Donald Trump might very well be “crazy.” But at least equally likely as the man having a diagnosable mental illness, is the possibility that he’s “crazy like a fox.” I mean he did manage to get elected president of the United States of America. Unless you’re a qualified medical professional who has treated him or a person who knows him intimately, there is simply no way to say which it is.

And don’t get me wrong. I do not think that Donald Trump should be president. I never have and I never will. Just about anything that gets that man out of office (legally) sounds like a good plan to me. And from the way I look at it, there are dozens of reasons why he should not be president, and many why he should be disqualified, removed, recalled, impeached, sent to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. But I don’t think that the possibility of Donald Trump’s being “mentally ill” falls under one of those myriad valid reasons.

I get it. No one wants a raving lunatic at the helm of the country. Right? Well it turns out that raving lunatic isn’t a medical diagnosis. If you look up “raving” in the dictionary, the always entertaining Merriam-Webster supplies a helpful example for the word in noun form. Lunatic, by the way, means insane, but it also means just wildly foolish. And even the former meaning of the word has no medical validity. But here’s my central question to you: should having a mental illness disqualify a person from being president of the United States? I know people can go either way on this, but what do you think? Does the fact a person has a mental illness automatically preclude them from being president of the United States? I’ll even write it as a word problem,

Choose one:

A) Mental illness = Cannot Be president of the United States

B) Mental illness ≠ Cannot Be president of the United States

Did you answer, “yes?” Did you pick Choice A? Are you one of the countless people posting Facebook posts, tweeting, yelling, making posters, saying, “Donald Trump should not be president, he is mentally ill.”

Ok, I’ve got news for you. According to your logic, you know who else shouldn’t have ever been president? This guy:

Abraham Lincoln (via Creative Commons)

Yep, that guy. When you say that Donald Trump should not be president because he has a mental illness, you’re also saying that good, old honest Abe had no business ever being president of the United States. Abraham Lincoln, mentally ill.

So as I see it, you’ve got another choice now. Either go sign on to and start a petition, as the mentally non-ill are so fond of doing, demanding that the U. S. Treasury Department change the face on the penny and five-dollar bill to someone who really served this country, like John Wilkes Booth. Or hold to the world view in which Lincoln remains one of this country’s greatest patriots, and Booth one of its worst villains, and take a minute and educate yourself about the stigma that surrounds every aspect of mental illness, and then take a few more minutes in the coming days and weeks to lessen that stigma. And start with this: stop using “mentally ill” as a pejorative.