All presidents undergo regular physicals – and sometimes their medical status is reported publicly, since the free world depends on a healthy U.S. president.
But before now, there’s been no insistence on a mental health evaluation – not while John F. Kennedy was turning the White House into the Playboy Mansion, or while Bill Clinton was carrying on with an intern in the Oval Office, or when George W. Bush was under intense stress after 9/11, or when Barack Obama tried to cancel the First Amendment religious rights of nuns around the world and demand they pay for their employees’ abortions.
Now, however, with a president who, however controversial, is indisputably growing the nation’s economy, rolling back social-agenda experiments in the U.S. military and making progress in denuclearizing North Korea, such evaluations suddenly are needed.
So say the organizers of an upcoming panel discussion at the National Press Club to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month.
Purportedly, it’s to discuss “mental health in Washington.”
But as reflected in the event’s subtitle, “The Increasingly Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” it is shaping up as much more of a strongly partisan political event.
On the panel is Bandy X. Lee, whose 2017 book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” is prominently promoted in the event’s publicity.
Officially, the panel is a “group of mental health experts” hosting a discussion “highlighting the need to establish a mental fitness evaluation for presidents and people in power.”
In particular, the panel intends to publicly “examine the connection between the president’s reckless language and increased levels of violence in the U.S.”
“The authors are not providing a medical diagnosis,” they claim, “but rather are fulfilling their ethical duty to warn the public of what they view as clear cut signs of dangerousness: Trump’s impact on the traumatized, the social incitement of violence led by the president, and his tendency to lie.”
Lee, an M.D. and faculty member at the Yale School of Medicine, is described on the faculty website as an expert on violence, having been involved in many programs focused on curbing violence, from her work in prisons to her leadership of the Center for the Study of Violence and her work with the World Health Organization.
Previously, her criticism of Trump in her book prompted a debate within the psychiatric profession over blatant violations of “the Goldwater Rule,” the American Psychiatric Association rule calling it unethical for doctors to make a diagnosis for public figures they haven’t personally examined.
It was April 2017 when Lee held a meeting at Yale to talk about her beliefs about Trump. Then, in a Salon interview, she claimed that his mental health amounted to a “state of emergency.”
“Our survival as a species may be at stake,” she said.
Later in the year, Lee met with mostly Democrats and critics of Trump in Congress when she claimed the president was “unraveling.”
Another panel member is Jim Gilligan of New York University.
One of his recent studies discusses the psychopharmacologic treatment of violent youth. He teaches Retribution in Criminal Justice: Violence and its Relation to Manhood.
Betty Teng, another expert, wrote at Vox shortly after Trump’s election about how she was helping people traumatized by the election.
She urgently explained: “In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s win, patients and colleagues told me they felt less safe walking down the street. … I know how they feel. In the days following the election my mind struggled to focus. I was prone to spontaneous tears. It was difficult to summon the words to speak. I recognized these responses in myself and others as symptoms of traumatic shock, the possible harbingers of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
She claimed she eventually calmed down.
Teng continued; “We hadn’t been physically attacked, nor had we experienced a natural catastrophe. Or had we? Does the election ‘count’ as a traumatic event?”
She described her own suffering as a result of the election.
“As psychodynamic clinicians know, repressed emotions inevitably merge in other forms elsewhere. Outside of the therapy room, I am more anxious, less focused, and more on edge. … I have trouble sleeping.”
She lamented hearing how a jungle gym that is in her 6-year-old’s favorite playground had been “defaced” with the words “Go Trump.”
“When I saw the photos, I burst into tears.”
Panel member Ed Fisher of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, according to his bio, has “wide-ranging” interests, including peer support for health care and research on cancer, diabetes and mental health.
At Flyleaf Books, he discussed his contributions to Lee’s book.
Flyleaf said the book’s allegations: “The consensus of two dozen psychiatrists and psychologists that Trump is dangerously mentally ill and that he presents a clear and present danger to the nation and our own mental health. This is not normal.”
The “psychiatrists and psychologists” in the book boast of their “civic ‘duty to warn'” America about Trump, even if it violates ethics rules.
Lastly, there’s Michael Tansey, who though announcing he will be “not diagnosing” the president, was a contributor to Lee’s book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” and has lectured on “Trump and Delusional Disorder.” He argues that Trump exhibits much more than run-of-the-mill Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and that America’s chief executive suffers, instead, from the more “serious and dangerous Delusional Disorder.”