Why “crazy” is lazy

Paul Nuttall is a crazy, myth making liar.

Donald Trump has a troubled mental status, and we should feel free to used the terms “nut case” and “mentally ill”. Indeed, he probably has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The climax of Piers Morgan’s mental breakdown is imminent and should be sent to The Priory.

Not my words, but ones I have pulled from social media the morning.

I get where this is coming from. I really do. It’s so tempting to write off repeated bad behaviour as “mental illness”. Because why would a rational, sane person make self-evidently bizarre and authoritarian claims? Why would anyone repeatedly tell huge, discoverable whoppers unless something pathological was going on? Why would someone display their most unpleasant character traits on social media unless they were disinhibited by their mental state?

There’s a process of “othering” going on. People with mental health problems are usually “other” because they might think differently and/or behave differently to the norm. They might seem embarrassing, laughable, or even frightening and so it’s comforting to the general population to maintain a belief that those people are not like “us”.

But when the Trumps and the Nuttalls and the Morgans take centre stage, mental illness suddenly becomes the lesser of two evils. It is difficult to accept that awful behaviour could come from a place of being a not very nice person, that unpleasant and sometimes damaging ideas might simply be part of the human condition. Because what then does that say about the the rest of us “normals”?

Of course the kind of behaviour we see from Donald Trump goes beyond merely damaging and into downright dangerous, so the othering has to be stepped up. Personality disorders, perhaps the most stigmatised of mental health diagnoses, are especially useful here. They might lead to troubling behaviour, but some of them are also “evidence” of pathological awfulness. It’s a convenient way of seeing Trump’s behaviour as evidence that he is both unhinged and bad to the bone. Many people, including health care professionals who do not work in psychiatry, have been quick to remotely apply the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder and declare that Trump is a match, rubbing their hands with glee at being able to stick him in the “other” box.

Aside from the unethical nature of public armchair diagnosis, the association of dangerous/embarrassing behaviour and mental illness impacts on people who genuinely have a mental condition. Othering gets taken to a new public level, as the association between mental health and awful behaviour are further cemented in the public mind. If Donal Trump is “crazy” because his wild ideas can be downright dangerous, “crazy” people must have wild ideas and their thoughts might be dangerous – especially those people with more severe conditions.

Pulling The Priory (a well-know British privately-run mental health hospital) into the discussion downplays the seriousness of admission to a psych unit, and makes admission the logical consequence of bad behaviour. Both mad and bad people ought to be inpatients, tucked away out of sight. It is effectively a punishment which conveniently removes offending ideas from the public domain.

Here’s the news flash: some people are just plain obnoxious. They probably don’t have a personality disorder, and even if they did, nobody could be sure other than a qualified psychiatrist who’s spent sufficient time with that person to make an assessment. They’re probably acting as they are not because they are mentally unwell. Their behaviour isn’t the result of disinhibition or panic – it’s a choice. Their lying is situational and calculated, a deliberate means to an end, not the result of someone whose untruths are pathological or “crazy”.

A simple plea, then. By all means acknowledge that Trump is narcissistic, but don’t go ahead and pin a stigmatising label on him. Call Paul Nuttall out on his lies, but don’t frame his personal myth as mental ill health. Don’t identify repeatedly rude or unpalatable behaviour as evidence of an imminent breakdown, and don’t threaten admission as a way of dealing with bad (or mad) behaviour.

Just accept it: some people are repellent, and that’s probably all there is to it.




About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards 2013. Winner of the World in Mentalists Mood Disorder blog 2012. Regular guest blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation http://www.internationalbipolarfoundation.org/ Expert by Experience working with Mind training department. Working on The Incoming Tide, a bipolar memoir. Find me on Twitter @BipolarBlogger or at my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BipolarBlogger
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