I’m a huge Bernie Sanders fan, but I was disappointed with his remarks on mental illness in the last Democratic debate. I don’t think Sanders (or anyone) is perfect, but I would like to believe that someone who constantly fights on behalf of marginalized groups would be more careful with their words.
As you can see below, Bernie made a quick joke about how Republicans prove we should spend more money on mental health care. Calling your political opponents mentally ill is problematic for a few reasons:
1) It marginalizes those with actual mental illness
This kind of language equates mental illness as a type of insult. When we joke about our political opponents being mentally ill, what are we really trying to say? We should call out our opponent’s irrational viewpoints directly without resorting to cheap attacks that stigmatize those with mental illness.2) It distracts from the issues
Instead of calling out the many problems with Republican politics, Bernie attempted an immature political attack. As someone who constantly wants us to focus on the issues, I was disappointed that Bernie would sink to this level.
3) Your armchair diagnosis doesn’t help anyone
Unless one of your political opponents happens to be your patient, your attempted diagnosis is irrelevant. Diagnosing people with mental illness is a very complicated process and requires expertise in clinical psychology and actually examining the person in question.
I’m calling out Bernie Sanders here because I’m a supporter of his and want him to do better. However, these points apply to everyone. Let’s stop with the cheap attacks that can marginalize people and focus on the issues.
[Featured image from Huffington Post]