Psychiatry Org Reminds Members: Feel Free To Comment On Trump Mental State

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A prominent psychiatry group decided this month that they will stick with their tradition of not taking an official stance on the mental state of public figures, but sent a reminder to members saying they are free to weigh in on the mental health of politicians and public figures, like the President.

The request to take an official stance on the psychological health of public figures was voted down at a recent meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s executive team, according to an email sent out to members earlier this month. But members were reminded that they’ve had permission since 2010 to make their own expert opinions about people in the public eye known, according to a spokesperson for the group.

STAT, a health and medicine news site, originally reported that the letter sent out to members was a sign that the group was breaking with a decades-old rule that kept specialists from commenting on behaviors and the psychiatric health of public figures without first examining them.

But group spokesperson Wylie Tene said that report is misleading.

“There’s nothing really new with the letter (we sent to members). It was just reiterating to members that they don’t have to follow the Goldwater rule because we don’t have a Goldwater rule,” he told TPM, referring to a restriction that’s been in place since the 1960s when psychiatrists answered survey questions on whether then-Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was running for President that year, was fit for the office.

The rule was put in place because of the ethical questions raised over offering a professional opinion about a person without consent or examination.

There’s no punishment for violating the rule, according to STAT, and no other medical profession has such a rule as long as experts make it known that they have not examined the public figure they’re assessing.

While the 3,500 members of the American Psychoanalytic Association already had permission to comment on a politician’s mental health without an evaluation, the reminder is more relevant in the age of President Donald Trump, a former president of the psychiatrist organization said.

“We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly,” former president Prudence Gourguechon told STAT, saying that role should be taken even more seriously today, given “Trump’s behavior is so different than anything we’ve seen before” in a President.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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