Reaction to President Trump’s Election Video and Why We Need to Do Better

This article is about the 46 minute video President Trump released Wednesday, but it probably isn’t what you think. Frankly, for the purposes of this blog, I don’t care if you support the President or not. I care about the reaction to the speech, which is what I want to talk about today.

Photo by Erin Schaff of the New York Times, used here under a Creative Commons license. All rights reserved.

I saw many people, including some journalists and activists, dismissing President Trump’s speech as “mentally ill ranting.” This is something I found very troubling. While it might be true that the President has one or more mental illnesses, the implication of dismissing his video as just a “mentally ill rant,” is that it is okay to dismiss what someone says purely because they are mentally ill. That is not okay.

And what irks me even more is that some of these same people call for mental health workers to respond to crisis calls instead of police, presumably because those in crisis should be heard and mental health workers are more likely to do that than a police officer who lacks the correct crisis intervention training. Yet somehow, because of the charged politics surrounding the President, people think he isn’t deserving of also being heard if he is in a mental health crisis.

Yet mental illness cannot be about politics or personal feelings. Because dismissing one person’s comments as just a “mentally ill rant” makes it that much easier to dismiss someone else who battles mental illness. And if we are going to break the stigma, we must do better. When it comes to mental illness we cannot pick and choose who we treat with compassion. If you believe this speech was the result of mental illness there has to be a difference between not believing what he says and dismissing it outright.

And I get it. I understand that there are many out there who find President Trump to be extremely distasteful. I understand that many think that we should not be indulging his idea that the election was rigged because there is literally no evidence of that. But say that instead of blaming mental illness. Say that you won’t watch it or you won’t share it because everything he says lacks evidence and everything he says has been refuted by experts. Do what Twitter does, and say it is that the actual election authorities have called the election differently. Don’t blame a mental illness and push the idea that what someone says doesn’t matter if they have mental illness. Stick to the verifiable facts if you are to dismiss this video, not mental illness.

And I am not saying that this video should be shared, because it shouldn’t be shared. As I said, it creates confusion because what the President is saying has been refuted by every court that has heard the claim and every expert who has weighed in, including President Trump’s own Attorney General, William Barr. Yet if you believe that it shouldn’t be shared because it is just a “mentally ill rant,” maybe it is time to rethink that that says about your view of mental illness when it comes to people you don’t like. Because it is fine to not like President Trump and to believe that he is making America worse. If you believe he is mentally ill, there are certainly arguments that would support that belief. But if those are things you believe, than make America better by being better yourself, and when it comes to mental illness, that means avoiding things that might fuel the stigma instead of breaking it.

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