President Donald Trump’s mental fitness has been called into question ever since he announced his candidacy. Partially based on early morning Twitter tirades, people on the internet have assigned various mental illnesses to the president; from mood disorders to personality disorders. The trend causes discomfort for those living with mental illness and the people who treat them.
At Hope Clubhouse, in Fort Myers, adults with mental illnesses gain skills that will help them in the outside world.
David Hurst was checking out the work order board, which has a list of responsibilities.
"Everybody chooses what task they want to here," said Hurst. "And it’s strictly voluntary."
On this particular Monday, he's logged the mileage for the non-profit's van and and he's cleaned the restrooms.
Hurst has Bipolar I Disorder. It's characterized by mood swings between mania and depression. He's noticed that people have claimed the president has the same disorder.
"I think it's mostly conjecture. And when somebody tells that about Donald Trump I feel insulted to tell you the truth," Hurst said. "People calling him that without any evidence, that makes it rough on the rest of us. It's the tendency for people to mock him. Well what does that say to me as a mentally ill person?"
Hurst said ascribing the president’s decisions to having a mood or personality disorder - after Trump says or Tweets something people don’t agree with - perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental illness.
....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
“When people paint him that way, they tar us with the same brush,” Hurst said.
Prudence Gourgechon, a psychiatrist, is the former president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She said that even if the president had a mood or personality disorder, those shouldn’t be disqualifiers for being good at his job.
"In terms of narcissistic personality disorder,which has been tossed around a lot, any great charismatic leader has a good helping of that," said Hurst.
Gourgechon wrote an op-ed in the LA Times that argued that the quality of a leader could be determined by a list of traits from the US Army’s Field Manual.
"The capacity for self-reflection, self-awareness, judgment, discipline and the capacity to trust," she said.
In that opinion piece, Gourgechon falls short of making a conclusion about Trump’s performance. And as a psychiatrist, it would be unethical for Gourgechon to diagnose someone without meeting them. However, aside from her professional observations, she has a personal opinion.
"As a citizen I look at Trump and I can say he falls short on all five of those honestly," Gourgechon said.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
She makes it clear her assessment is based on leadership traits and not from conjecture about mental health.
Back at Hope Clubhouse, Hurst said people with mental illnesses are no different than other people - they’re just trying to live their lives.
He said getting help is the first step.
"The best thing to do would be to see a doctor or a therapist or somebody who can help you," Hurst said.
When asked if he thought the president should see a doctor, Hurst laughed and said yes.
Ultimately, Hurst said that people who say Trump has mental health issues only perpetuate stigma and trivialize real and difficult clinical diagnoses.