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Column uses stigma of mental illness

Intelligencer Journal - 9/11/2017

Eugene Robinson’s Aug. 23 column (“It’s time to discuss Trump’s mental health”) displayed an ignorance of mental illness. Bad behavior does not constitute mental illness. Many folks with mental illness live full, productive lives.

Robinson, upset by President Donald Trump’s Charlottesville rant, flung what he regarded as a big mud pie at Trump; he used the stigma of mental illness to smear him. Trump’s Charlottesville comments were certainly deplorable but not a sign of mental illness. Robinson’s column reflects an old-fashioned, misguided, uninformed view. And using the word “crazy,” as he did, adds to the stigma.

Rage (Bill Clinton), ineffectiveness (Jimmy Carter) and incompetence (George W. Bush) are not new in the presidency. Abraham Lincoln fought depression his whole life, yet made decisions that saved the nation. Richard Nixon made his worst cover-up decisions with a clear head, yet at the end of his presidency was clearly depressed when he got down on his knees, prayed and resigned, saving the country a year of divisive impeachment proceedings.

Those of us who fought for a place on a team - at school or at work - while visibly depressed are miffed by Robinson’s column. Thankfully, most people make team selections based on performance. Robinson must do the same with the president - focus on his performance.

Instead, diverted by the latest bright, shiny object the master of media waved before him, Robinson wrote yet another bash-Trump column. It was more fun to read than a sober discussion of what’s happening at the Department of Justice or the Environmental Protection Agency. But it was harmful to the one in five Americans diagnosed with mental illness, most of whom continue to work, love and live well.

I hope we read an apology from Robinson before he speaks to Lancaster County Democrats next month.

Brian Hernon



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