So Kanye West tweeted this week—a lot. On Wednesday, the rapper talked about his home, emoji preferences, and why President Donald Trump is his “brother.”
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In response, people from all over the world (including his pal John Legend) expressed that they found his statements and pictures of his “Make America Great Again” hat offensive. And while Legend and many others were well intentioned and respectful, some commenters were quick to call West “crazy” and mentally ill.
Kim Kardashian West defended her husband, tweeting, “Mental Health is no joke and the media needs to stop spitting that out so casually. Bottom line.”
Kardashian West has it right. Whether you agree or disagree with West's posts, accusing him of having a psychological disorder insults those who actual do have one, and it spreads misinformation about what it means to live with depression, bipolar disorder, or a similar condition.
Stephen Hinshaw, PhD, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley and author of Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness, tells Health how calling someone crazy stigmatizes those with actual mental disorders.
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“Though it might be tempting to ‘diagnose’ or brand someone with views that you find abhorrent as ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho,’ doing so ignores the fact that mental disorders actually do exist and cause real pain and impairment—but require considerable time and effort on the part of the clinician to make an accurate diagnosis,” Hinshaw says. “No one can do this by reading someone’s political views.”
That applies to doctors and other professionals who are trained to diagnose mental disorders as well. It's unethical, Hinshaw says, and runs afoul of a guideline instituted in the 1960s called the Goldwater Rule, after psychiatrists labeled 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater crazy because of his political views. A professional can only make a mental health disorder diagnosis after an exam.
Kanye is a celebrity example of why it's wrong to call someone you disagree with nuts, bonkers, or psycho. But many of us have done it when we disagree with something a friend or coworkers says or posts. Next time you want to tell your sister or BFF that she's insane because of an opinion she has, stop yourself and remember that mental disorders are legitimate illnesses, not insults.
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“Given the rampant stigma that still exists regarding mental illness, even in 2018, such unjust accusations are likely to be damaging,” Hinshaw says. “These are slurs against unpopular views, not accurate diagnoses of conditions like PTSD, bipolar disorder or ADHD.”