The language is insensitive--even incendiary: crazy, sicko, repeatedly pressing for more mental institutions like “the old days.”
The comments--and their innuendos--divide--and, in the process, further stigmatize mental health.
But, sadly, this isn’t the commentary of your crazy uncle at those dreaded family reunions; instead, these are the comments of Donald J. Trump. That would be President Trump.
For the Donald, mental health is a plague--something that needs to be confined. Even quarantined. He routinely conflates mental illness and violence--perpetuating the false narrative that violence and mental illness are intertwined.
When he isn’t peddling this false narrative, he is advocating for the return of mental health institutions. “You know, in the old days we had mental institutions. We had a lot of them. And you could nab someone like this, because they...knew something was off. You had to know that. People were calling all over the place,” the Donald informed/lectured.
Donald--a little history lesson. Mental health institutions were closed in the 1960s because of safety concerns and deplorable conditions. They were routinely likened to prisons; this New York Times article hints at their despair and cruelty (“the smell of caged humans”).
More than just lamenting mental health institutions, I find Donald’s disparagement of the mentally ill deeply disturbing. The President has the world’s most powerful bully pulpit--the ability to seize the day’s narrative with an opinion, quote, or tweet (however ill-advised). But instead of providing factual information about mental health, the President has used his bully pulpit to reinforce demeaning, damaging stereotypes. In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland, Florida shooting, the President referred to the alleged shooter as a “savage sicko.” At Trump’s urging, his then attorney general, Jeff Sessions, vowed to examine the “intersection of mental health and criminality.”