Psychologists Declaring Trump Is Mentally Ill

Mental health group gathers signatures calling Trump “psychologically incapable”

60,000 signatures on a petition calling for the removal of Donald Trump from office due to “serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.” The group “Duty to Warn,” founded by the influential psychotherapist Dr. John Gartner, hopes to reach its target of 75,000 signatures before planned multi-city town hall meetings on October 14.

This petition takes place in the context of mental health organizations that struggle to clarify their positions on the ethics of their members publicly commenting on the mental health of public officials.

This leads to a statement given by the American Psychological Association President, Susan H. McDaniel, in which she states, “our ethical code states that psychologists should not offer a diagnosis in the media of a living public figure they have not examined.”

The “Goldwater Rule,” as it is known, refers to a rule from the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics forbidding its members to comment on the mental health of public figures. The American Psychoanalytic Association also issued a statement saying that its members are allowed and should feel free to comment on public figures’ mental health, but should refrain from offering official diagnosis. This statement was misreported by a news article as originating from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) (which holds the origins of the Goldwater Rule), prompting the organization to issue a statement titled “APA Reaffirms Support for Goldwater Rule”.

The American Psychological Association Ethical Standard 4.05 writes that “Psychologists disclose confidential information without the consent of the individual only as mandated by law, or where permitted by law for a valid purpose such as to… protect the client/patient, psychologist, or others from harm.”

Many organizations, all with the acronym “APA,” draw different lines for their members’ ability to “comment on” and/or “diagnose” public figures. They have versions of the same rule allowing their members to disclose confidential patient information when withholding this information would put people at risk.

It is a psychologist’s duty to warn—most people will have heard of this rule in the context of mandatory reporting of child abuse. “Duty to Warn” applies the same logic to commenting on the mental health of Donald Trump. “Donald Trump is too seriously mentally ill to competently discharge his duties as president and must be removed according to the 25th Amendment” is what they say on their Facebook page. This petition has reached the public ear in such spaces as the Daily Kos, USA Today, New York Magazine,, and many more. They are making an effort to gather more signatures before multi-city town hall events, scheduled for October 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and San Francisco (with additional cities possibly added).

The petition in its succinct entirety reads as follows:

“We, the undersigned mental health professionals (please state your degree), believe in our professional judgment that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States. And we respectfully request he be removed from office, according to 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.”

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