The last time I wrote an op-ed on mental health, I explored the dangers of calling President Trump “crazy” or “unhinged.” As I expected, nothing much has changed on that front. In fact, I now feel as though the language of insanity is inescapable. I see countless tweets and news stories every day with people proclaiming that someone is insane or crazy or some variation.
It is likely that this rhetoric has always been in place for as long as humans have been disagreeing with each other, but I have only recently begun to really pay attention to politics so this exposure is still a somewhat new phenomenon to me. And I see it on both sides of the political spectrum.
On Monday, I saw this video:
Before I go further, I want to be clear that I do not have any ill will toward Dylan Ratigan. In fact, I had never seen him or heard his name until this video. My critique, while lodged at him in part, is not meant as a personal attack on him, but rather an examination of an example of the negative outcomes of the proclivity to call people crazy.
The crux of this video is the following quote:
The President is not a liar because the President actually believes the statements he is making. The President is much worse than a liar. He is psychologically impaired to the point where he is overtly delusional, which is vastly more dangerous than simply having a President who’s a liar.
Essentially, what Ratigan is saying is that being “delusional” and having a mental illness is worse than lying. And perhaps that is what Ratigan truly believes. However, in my opinion, it is more likely that he has come to that conclusion because he cannot understand Trump’s behavior. Trump, to him, is incomprehensible; he’s other. And as such, there must be something “wrong” with him. What’s wrong with him must thus be the way his mind functions.
To me, when I see people proclaim that those they oppose, or don’t understand, or simply don’t agree with, are mentally disturbed or unstable, I see ignorance. Or at least a lack of empathy. A lack of willingness to see things from another’s perspective. To try to understand the way they think, the way they feel.
Even if the person being accused of suffering from mental illness does, in fact, have a mental illness, why does that inherently make them lesser or worse or bad? Accusing someone you disagree with as “crazy” is to dismiss them, to say that their arguments aren’t valid. And it’s a poor tactic that only serves to further stigmatize mental illness.
When I originally wrote this piece, I wanted to end it there, because I thought that concluding paragraph best summed up my thoughts on the matter. But I’ve been thinking it over since the first draft and I’d rather end on a more positive note. Too often I feel like I’m railing about prejudices against mental illness and shouting into the void. I don’t have a large influence or a big following.
But, if I did, I would want to start a campaign to encourage people to stop using mental illness as an insult. Everyone knows it’s not okay anymore to say something or someone is gay or retarded as an insult. I think that calling them crazy or insane should be treated the same way.
So, I would urge the few readers who do read this piece to carefully think about what they say on a day to day basis. To understand the damage that loose speech can do. And to make an effort to change the way they speak accordingly.