Our public discourse can tend to be…questionable. One comment can easily turn into a sensational tale, especially in the social media age.
One example I think of that I have been seeing recently that would fall into this category is the mental state of the President of the United States. Thanks to his words, behaviors and decisions, many people are speculating that Donald Trump might just be mentally ill. Or, in their words, “crazy.”
I’m not shy to say, I don’t support President Trump. He has shown enough, regardless of the headlines or not, that prove to me he is not someone who is respectable, just as he doesn’t respect many of the people surrounding him. You have to be a good person to be treated like one.
When you have your own political or general ideology, it turns into a biased lens of viewing the world. You’ll notice and focus on different things than somebody else with potentially opposite beliefs. Doesn’t mean that one is worse or “more wrong” than the other, but it can end up clouding our vision to understanding each other.
Understandably then, when news stories come up that reflect what you believe, you’ll be dedicated to that message. We seek out that validation of our beliefs to ensure that yes, this is acceptable, we are not wrong or alone in our thinking. However, trying to justify ourselves can compromise simply being moral.
That is what I see when the headlines blare off how Congress members are thinking that the president is off his rocker. Even if just one politician said something, both the liberal and conservative news outlets would suck it up like a sponge and put their spin on the scenario.
I don’t care how famous you are, we have no right to speculate about somebody’s mental health as if it’s just another topic to gossip about. What right do we have as unqualified individuals who don’t even know the person being analyzed to say anything of that nature?
When partaking in this rhetoric, throwing around mental health diagnoses like picking flavors of ice cream, you undermine the importance of mental health. You further the stigma, not through silence, but through uneducated and sensational words. You make people who are clinically diagnosed and struggling feel devalued.
We certainly don’t throw around guesses regarding somebody’s functional physical diseases, at least not to the same degree. We don’t draw in audiences to hear about a celebrity’s signals that they’re diabetic or have asthma. It’s not only not worth mentioning, but it’s none of our business.
And if we’re only basing Donald Trump’s mental health on his tweets and behaviors, what kind of analysis is that anyways? You cannot blame mental illness as a reason for crude words and actions, for having poor character and judgment. If that’s the case, the world is just full of “crazy” people who just need some therapy or drugs or something to “cure” them of their erratic personality.
Especially when using words like “crazy” to describe someone, whether they have mental illness or not, is downright cruel. “Crazy” is an adjective that conjures up ideas that skew us away from empathy and true understanding of mental health. We turn actual mental health conditions into over-the-top things, to the point that they lose their reality. They turn mental illness into a single image of a completely debilitated person stuck in an institution and strapped to a bed. Our words really do matter.
There are many celebrities now opening up about their own struggles with mental illness and addiction, and for that I am so grateful. To have a role model who you can relate to in that way, a way that so many of us fail to mention publicly, is hopeful and reassuring. It reminds us that we’re not alone, that even people in the spotlight have challenges. Life isn’t easy for anybody, even if you have money and fame backing you up. Our similarities as fellow humans far outweigh the differences.
While I cannot change what the news is reporting, nor am I trying to, I want us as consumers of messages and media to be more conscious of what we promote and how we talk to each other. We don’t have to support the people and institutions that use this ignorant language. We don’t have to run down the tattle-trail of conspiracy because chances are, there is much more at stake than a single story. For this particular case, you damage all the progress we have made with recognizing and accurately treating mental illness. Is one conversation starter really worth that? Because once you start with something that might not even be bad-intentioned, you could end up in a real mess.
And even if we aren’t big-name stars, we still have significant influence on those around us. We not only choose who we interact with, but we choose our words and the ideas we share. Those ideas reflect back on ourselves and our worldviews. I hope your words then reflect compassion, knowledge, and awareness.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie