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jvgr's avatar

Do you think the mental health of candidates should be a mandatory qualification for a President?

Asked by jvgr (1940points) October 15th, 2008

I ran across this article in “The American Conservative” and with respect to the present election, it does present some clear concerns.

Right now, presidential candidates are only required to prove physical health, is physical health the only important health issue?

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6 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Wow! And in the American Conservative, too!

Well, I think the problems this article discussed are clearly there in his behavior, for those who have the eyes to look. In watching the debates, I realized he was an impulsive man, prone to making decisions without doing proper research. I believe both Palin and Joe the Plumber are symptoms of this.

Now, of course it makes sense that he has PTSD. I had been wondering about that—if he had ever been treated. But no, due to the demands of political exigencies, he could not be seen to have any mental problems.

And who is to say that he’s not right? I mean, anyone can see his character. I saw it, so anyone can see it. Not all may choose to see it. And some may say we want an impulsive, shoot from the hip kind of guy for president.

As to the question of whether mental health should be a concern. This is very tricky for me. I’ve got a mental illness. Sometimes the meds control it. But not always. It affects my decision-making and behavior. I guess I think that if I were running for an office, it would be important for the voters to know that sometimes I think there is no way out, and I can get despondent and unable to do anything. They should also know that if I am surrounded with people who bring things to my attention—as most leaders are—I do much better, and no one would know I have mood problems.

So I guess my reluctant answer is that I think we should be told about mental health. That way we can choose. Do we want a guy who rages around, and will be extremely aggressive in negotiations and in foreign policy? A man who will take out his anger on any poor nation in a flash? A man who totally disrespects diplomacy, and won’t sit down to talk with anyone; who is probably incapable of talking rationally.

Well, the voters may like that. They may think that’s what we need. They’ve voted for that the last two elections. I don’t agree. In any case, I think we should have full infomation on which to make a choice.

marinelife's avatar

Since it is not an exact science and is subjective, such a qualification could be used to manipulate the election. Also, what would happen if results of tests were leaked? Remember poor Thomas Eagleton?

jvgr's avatar

Marina: If we are allowed to know about physical health isn’t mental health as important? I’m for full disclosure. Mental Health diagnosis isn’t that subjective anymore and the implications of specific MH issues is important.

Yes I remember Eagleton, and he was banished because of treatment for depression, and electro-therapy was common at the time and is still used today. He shouldn’t have been dumped because of depression. Depression doesn’t manifest itself in a way that McCain’s potential condition does. Depression is easily treatable and manageable.

McCain’s possible condition has more serious impact on his presidential behaviour and if it is treatable, that would be fine. Given the diagnosis, admittedly based on observation, certainly warrants further investigation. IMO we should know the best information available including treatment. As long as treatment is feasible, allowing the condition to be manageable then I’d have no concern, regardless of the candidate.

The article just makes me think that a physical condition report is not the only report we should be satisfied with.

marinelife's avatar

@jvgr In a perfect world, I would want to know. In our culture, however, there is still a great deal of stigma attached to mental health disorders. It could cost someone the election unfairly.

jvgr's avatar

@Marina: “In our culture, however, there is still a great deal of stigma attached to mental health disorders”
I do know that and if our leaders had to be found mentally well (either no incidence, or treatable condition which the candidate has been managing), that would certainly open up the issue of mental health. To me that’s a bonus.

wundayatta's avatar

Last time the issue of mental health in a candidate was opened, it was a disaster. Have we come far enough since then for things to be different? I think not. In any case, I’m sure no one wants to be the guinea pig.

A woman from a mental health advocacy group came to my support group once. She suggested that everyone should be totally public about their illness, because people need to know that one in five of us are mentally ill (I don’t know where she got that statistic). I asked her about all the different situations in which stigma can give us a lot of problems, and she agreed, saying we had to make the choice on our own, but if we don’t “come out”, we’ll never get the stigma dealt with.

So it’s a problem for ordinary mentally ill folk. Imagine what it would be like for candidates for national office!

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