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Dear Liberals: Spare Me Your Condescending Concern About Mental Health Stigma

By: Philip Kaplan

I have battled severe depression for about three and a half years now. I am one of the many Americans who suffer from some form of psychiatric illness, whether it’s a mood disorder or an eating disorder or an addiction or a psychotic/thought disorder. Or whether it’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I also volunteer with a mental health advocacy organization dedicated to fighting stigma. I have spoken to roomfuls of people about my own experiences with psychiatric illness, and I have opened up about it in other forums as well.

Regarding the latest attempt by the Hillary camp to twist Donald Trump’s perfectly appropriate comments about military veterans and PTSD into another “insensitive” monstrosity, I have three simple words: How dare you.

Speaking to an audience of veterans on Monday about the need for mental health services for returning soldiers, Trump said the following, “When people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it.”

Immediately, and predictably, the liberals pounced. Trump said vets with PTSD couldn’t handle it! He called them weak! He’s part of the problem! He’s stigmatizing those with mental health conditions!

Excuse me?

For a moment, let’s forget that Donald Trump’s clear advocacy for military veterans– and Hillary Clinton’s indifference to them– is so obvious that Hillary’s camp has totally given up on winning their votes. Let’s just deal with the fact that Hillary’s flunkies now presume to tell me, a sufferer of psychiatric illness, that I should be offended because supposedly Trump’s comments about the veterans are stigmatizing to those with mental health conditions.

Sorry, liberals, but you are so wrong it is embarrassing. Moreover, if you believe that what Donald Trump said is stigmatizing,you are part of the problem.

Psychiatric disorders are caused by a combination of neurochemical and environmental factors in ways that even the experts have not been able to figure out exactly. Some people are faced with a certain stressor and respond in certain ways, and others are faced with the same stressor and respond in other ways. Those who happened to have had the less favorable psychological reaction to the stressor are said, in plain English, not to have “handled” it as well. That’s not insulting. That’s not offensive. That’s not stigmatizing. That’s reality.

Additionally, by painting such language as offensive, liberals are actually reinforcing the stigma against mental illness. They are, in effect, saying that there is something inherently shameful about not being able to “handle” certain circumstances, as though we are compelled to be strong and tough all the time. Isn’t the eradication of stigma supposed to be based on the premise that it’s ok to admit to emotional vulnerability?

There was nothing wrong with Trump’s comments. He said many vets who have experienced the atrocities of war are understandably not able to handle it and therefore need greater mental health services upon returning. That is a factually true statement, a compassionate statement, and it is not stigmatizing in the least.

So, liberals, if you’re so hell-bent on fighting stigma against those with mental illness, you can start by not condescendingly implying that we need to have our feelings protected from non-existent language offenses spotted only by the politically correct radar machines of anti-Trump propagandists. Thank you.

Philip Kaplan


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