Thursday, October 07, 2004

Psychiatric mudslinging in the presidential campaign, part two

Instapundit cites the Drudge Report, quoting John Edwards on ABC News Nightline: "...if you live in the United States of America and you vote for George Bush, you've lost your mind."

When I started this blog, I wanted to comment on psychiatric-tinged insults that people were flinging at public figures: "crazy," "barking mad," and so forth. (See here, and here.) I've pleaded for restraint. These terms are hurtful to our patients, and perpetuate stereotypes and stigma. Now they're flowing in the opposite direction, from candidate to the public. I've never heard a candidate refer to American voters in such terms. (Has anyone else?)

No doubt, he wanted to convey that a vote for Bush is irrational, or incomprehensible. But using terms like "lost your mind" adds nothing to the debate. It will anger all Bush voters (regardless of whether or not they are models of mental health). Why use phrases that make suffering people and their families cringe?
The mentally ill have enough to deal with, and few enough people to speak up for them. Again, I plead for some thought and compassion. A vote for your opponent may be illogical or unwise, it may surpasseth understanding. But please don't use the language of stigma, making accusations about opponents' sanity. Thank you.

Afterthought: Mental health and unhealth have no allegiance to any political party. They are distributed across the political spectrum. All candidates might be surprised by the thought processes of some of their supporters...
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