An Open Letter to Dr. Drew and other “professionals”

Photo by Peter Linworth

Photo by Peter Linworth


I woke up this morning to the headline “A Neuroscientist explains: Trump has a mental disorder that makes him a dangerous world leader” I was upset, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not that I am pro-Trump and this made me angry.  It’s not that it frightened me, either. It was the sheer irresponsibility of the quoted medical “professionals” that drove me mad.

The Goldwater Rule

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or any other mental illness, cannot be diagnosed long distance Click To Tweet. You can’t study You Tube videos and sound bytes and make an accurate assessment. You must question the individual, interact with him, perform tests. Anyone who has ever been evaluated for a mental illness knows this.

American Psychiatric Association President Maria A. Oquendo wrote: “The unique atmosphere of this year’s election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates, but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible.” Why is it unethical? That involves the Goldwater Rule.

Photo by rdaconnect

Photo by rdaconnect

The Goldwater Rule is the informal name for a group of medical philosophies forbidding “ psychiatrists from commenting on individuals’ mental state without examining them personally and being authorized by the person to make such comments.” This is basic medical ethics 101, folks and it is being ignored by people out for their 15 minutes of fame.

So What’s the Problem

My friend Devani summed it up quite well. She said:

“It’s not only disrespectful towards people who are mentally ill, but concerning because now it makes me doubt some of these pros and anyone else they “claim” to be “mentally ill”

Did they just see someone’s social media and decide “Oh you posted about being anti-gun control, you’re mentally ill!” Or see some youtube footage?

It makes me question their authenticity beyond just their analysis of Trump.” Click To Tweet

Now can you see the problem? If people start doubting the veracity of mental health professionals, they will be less likely to seek help. This can lead to all kinds of trouble, including increasing the risk of suicide. The mentally ill face enough stumbling blocks on the road to diagnosis and treatment. Adding to that is irresponsible on the part of those who should know better.

The mental health community relies on the highest ethical standards by our practitioners. Our stability depends on it. When that is eroded, it can cause wide-spread damage. Not just for those seeking help, but for those of us already depending on it. We must be able to trust you.  When you enter the media circus with unvalidated claims, you damage and destroy that trust. Ethics and standards are established for a reason. When they are thrown aside for momentary notoriety, it is your patients and the patients of others, who suffer.

When it comes to political candidates, discuss their positions, discuss their statements, you can even discuss their behavior. But please, stop speculating on their mental health.

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