Group of Psychiatry Experts Claim Trump Has 'Dangerous Mental Illness'

By Britni de la Cretaz 04/26/17

The group of mental health professionals has come forward with claims that Trump is "delusional" and "paranoid."

Donald Trump at a rally in March of 2017

Last week at a conference at Yale’s School of Medicine, a group of more than 30 mental health professionals warned that President Donald Trump is unfit to serve. Members of the group said they had an “ethical responsibility” to warn others, and called President Trump “paranoid and delusional.”

Mental health professionals have largely refrained from speculation regarding the mental health of President Trump due to the “Goldwater rule,” which asserts that psychiatrists should not give statements speculating about the mental health of people they have not personally assessed. The rule was first implemented in 1973, and just last month, the American Psychiatric Association released a statement confirming its ethical commitment to the policy. 

However, Dr. John Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who advised psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School until 2015, said at the conference that mental health professionals have an "ethical responsibility to warn the public about the dangers posed by Donald Trump’s mental health."  

Gartner is a founding member of Duty to Warn, a group of mental health professionals who view it as their ethical obligation to let the public know about what they see as a potentially dangerous situation. The group takes its name from mental health professionals’ “duty to warn,” which refers to the freedom from legal repercussions if a professional breaks confidentiality to warn about a patient’s potential for violence.

Gartner is not the only mental health professional who has gone on record as believing that Donald Trump is not mentally fit for the presidency.

In a Letter to the Editor at the New York Times, Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Joseph Schachter, a former chairman of the Committee on Research Proposals, International Psychoanalytic Association, and 33 other professionals in the field of mental health wrote, “silence [from the country’s mental health organizations] 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.”

At the Yale conference, James Gilligan, a psychiatrist and professor at New York University, said, “I’ve worked with some of the most dangerous people our society produces, directing mental health programs in prisons. I’ve worked with murderers and rapists. I can recognize dangerousness from a mile away.” He continued, “You don’t have to be an expert on dangerousness or spend 50 years studying it like I have in order to know how dangerous this man is.”

Gartner has also started an online petition to have President Trump removed from office, citing article 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that the president will be replaced if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The petition currently has over 52,000 signatures.

Editor's Note: The Fix received the following clarification from Dr. Bandy Lee:

The panel at Yale School of Medicine abided by "the Goldwater rule." Eminent psychiatrists were invited to speak about whether there are other ethical rules that override it, as in ordinary practice. The organizer, Dr. Bandy Lee, agrees with the Goldwater rule, although she is troubled by its recent expansion (as of March 16, 2017) and the silencing of debate. She hopes that the public and politicians will understand that mental health issues are not to be used as a weapon, just as other health issues are not. Psychologist Dr. Gartner was invited as an activist but was not on the actual panel. The organizer emphasizes that the event was independent and did not represent the views of Yale University or Yale School of Medicine.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.