Friday, September 10, 2004

"Psychiatric mudslinging in the presidential campaign"

Dr. Sydney Smith, a family practitioner who authors Medpundit, explores "Presidential Head Games" on TechCentral Station. She cites concerns and rumors about the candidates, including Bush's drinking, and Kerry's "Vietnam nightmares."

She notes that, while certain aspects of a candidate's medical record are fair game, and other aspects are trivial and need no disclosure, "a candidate's mental health record is a dicier call... Severe mental illness can certainly be as detrimental to a candidate's ability to perform in office as a physical illness. No nation can afford a leader who is paralyzed by depression or anxiety, or whose judgment is distorted by substance abuse. Mental illnesses tend to be chronic and unpredictably recurrent." She cautions us about being judgmental, and notes that many patients do successfully recover.

She asks, "Does it matter that George Bush is an alcoholic? Would it matter if John Kerry has post-traumatic stress disorder? It depends on how well they handle it. We know that Bush is an alcoholic, he freely admits it. And that admission is the first and foremost step in the successful treatment of any mental illness. We don't know if John Kerry left Vietnam with lasting psychic wounds. He only evades the question when asked." She finds the evasion disturbing: "It suggests that he has yet to come to terms with the question himself."

I'm wondering if any soldier left Vietnam without lasting psychic wounds. And I wouldn't wait around for Kerry to tell us if he has come to terms with psychic wounds. Any admission of emotional trauma, of course, would be deadly for a campaign, and give tremendous ammunition to opponents. I'm reminded of the comments to my "Sick at Work" post, in which I am told quite bluntly about the the realities that attend the slightest admission of "stress" on the job, and those were not commander-in-chief-type jobs. We are watching Kerry in a state of major, relentless stress, right now, and we should be trying to discern how he thinks, and how he functions. What, in his daytime functioning, suggests that the nightmares are a trigger for concern?


Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

Shrinkette, I don't know how old you are, and this may be before your time, but I'm curious about your thoughts re the Thomas Eagleton affair. Here's a brief summary from

"On July 31, 1972, Senator Thomas Eagleton, the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee George S. McGovern, announced his intention to withdraw from the Democratic ticket. At issue was the revelation, confirmed by Eagleton six days prior, that he had been hospitalized for nervous exhaustion three times during the 1960s and had twice received electric shock therapy."

11:28 PM  
Blogger shrinkette said...

I was young then. I'm asking an older collegue for his comments. Thanks -

12:09 PM  

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