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"As health professionals we have an ethical duty to warn the public about that danger," said Dr. John Gartner, a psychologist. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/ Reuters)

Group of Mental Health Professionals Warn Trump's State 'Putting Country in Danger'

Despite professional rule barring them from doing so, psychological experts have argued that "too much is at stake to be silent any longer"

Andrea Germanos

A group of mental health professionals gathered at Yale University Thursday to discuss what they believe is their duty to warn the public of the "danger" posed by President Donald Trump.

The "Duty to Warn" event was attended by roughly two dozen people and was organized Dr. Bandy Lee, assistant clinical professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, the CTPost writes. Lee called the mental health of the president "the elephant in the room," and said: "Colleagues are concerned about the repercussions of speaking." 

"We do believe that Donald Trump's mental illness is putting the entire country, and indeed the entire world, in danger." —Dr. John Gartner, Duty to Warn

Yale did not sponsor the event, and said that conference-goers were expected to follow the Goldwater Rule. Enacted in 1973, it bars psychiatrists from giving their professional opinion on the mental health of a person they have not met. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) last month reaffirmed its support for the rule. In fact, the Duty to Warn group "has drawn considerable criticism from the psychiatric establishment" for flouting the rule, the Associated Press writes.

"Basically, one cannot speak of public figures under any circumstance," Lee said, according to NPR member station WSHU. "And to do that under this current climate of grave concern is, in my mind, is actually a political statement.”

"We do believe that Donald Trump's mental illness is putting the entire country, and indeed the entire world, in danger," argued Dr. John Gartner, a psychologist who used to teach at Johns Hopkins University, local WTNH writes. "As health professionals we have an ethical duty to warn the public about that danger," he said.

"Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President. If Donald Trump really believes he had the largest crowd size in history, that's delusional," Gartner added.

Gartner founded Duty to Warn and also started a Change.org petition which states that "Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States" and should therefore be removed from office. As of this writing, the petition has gathered over 42,000 signatures.

In a letter to the editors of the New York Times earlier this year, a separate group of over 30 mental health professionals also warned of Trump's "grave emotional instability" and said of the Goldwater Rule: "this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer."

"Mr. Trump's speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists)," they wrote.

Ahead of the presidential election, however, APA president Maria A. Oquendo urged continued adherence to the rule, writing:

We live in an age where information on a given individual is easier to access and more abundant than ever before, particularly if that person happens to be a public figure. With that in mind, I can understand the desire to get inside the mind of a Presidential candidate. I can also understand how a patient might feel if they saw their doctor offering an uninformed medical opinion on someone they have never examined. A patient who sees that might lose confidence in their doctor, and would likely feel stigmatized by language painting a candidate with a mental disorder (real or perceived) as “unfit” or “unworthy” to assume the Presidency.

Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.


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