Donald Trump is mentally ill. Mental illness was my specialty in over 35 years of masters-level social service. I’ve counseled those with bi-polar disorder, major depression, personality disorders, severe anxiety, and schizophrenia. I’ve never met Trump personally, but closely observing his actions, words, and behaviors over the past four years, and particularly now since the conclusion of the 2020 election, it is obvious to me that he is, indeed, mentally ill. I’m not completely sure of his diagnosis, but I would surmise that it is bi-polar I, the definition of which is when manic episodes last at least seven days and are accompanied by psychotic features, or the manic symptoms are severe enough to require immediate hospitalization to prevent harm to oneself or others. Depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks, also often occur. A person may have manic episodes with some depressive features or depressive episodes with some manic features.
Trump has become increasingly symptomatic since his hospitalization for Covid-19. He impulsively left hospital on his own volition, against the advice of his doctors, to get in a car and wave to supporters lining the street. Shortly after, he left the hospital, claiming he’d beat the virus, needing to return to his rallies as part of his re-election strategy. He was behind in the polls at that point and may have felt a sense of urgency. He was highly medicated. He became increasingly aggressive at his rallies and on Twitter. He then lost the election, both the electoral and popular vote. Really, it wasn’t even close. His reaction? In capital letters: “I won the election…by a lot.”
Since then, we have seen Trump devolve into decompensation and paranoid delusion. Let’s face it: He is acting like a banana republic dictator, seemingly planning a coup. He fits the profile of a bi-polar with psychotic features, which is alarming enough for an ordinary citizen, but alarmingly dangerous for the president of the United States, his country, and the world.
So how to stop this obviously out of control, mentally ill person? In my experience, there is no rational means to deal with such an individual. Common sense doesn’t work. Objective thinking doesn’t work. Pragmatic, reality-based suggestions don’t work. All my client-centered, Rogerian counseling never worked. Medications could help, but only if the patient agreed to take them faithfully. So what to do to stop this mentally disturbed man?
Here are my suggestions. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram must immediately cancel the account of Donald Trump and those of his family surrogates. Fox News should continue to distance itself from Trump, as should Rush Limbaugh and Newsmax TV. These venues have been much too easy for Trump to spread his invectives and misinformation about the election, about the coronavirus, about the economy, about Joe Biden and his supporters. These venues have supported the cult of this mentally ill man. It is not enough to post warnings alongside the postings. These venues have canceled the accounts of other vitriolic groups and individuals. They can, and must, do it now with Trump’s accounts. This would take away important means to his questionable ends. He has constructed his entire presidency on communicating with his cult followers through Twitter alone. Taking that account away from him would limit his ability to spread his toxic comments to his faithful followers. Some of those minions are prone to violence, instigated by their leader’s combative words. Without Twitter, Trump has one less major means to spread his often irrational and psychotic invective.
So no internal pleadings will work, in my judgement and experience working with similar people during my career. External limitations must be employed since internal limits are minimal and often ineffective. This would include Republican politicians on state and federal levels coming out and endorsing the legitimate election of Joe Biden as president. The more Trump realizes that his allies are against his infantile protestations, the more inclined he will be to eventually face reality and assist President-elect Biden in the transition. To date, most of these Republicans have been reluctant to do this for varying reasons. But they too must face the reality of the situation and overcome their fears of opposing this man before he does more damage to the country during this lame duck period.
I’m sure there are more ways to stop Trump’s slide into deeper mental disorder. It used to be called an intervention when a family would confront an alcoholic member and try to inspire an end to the problem. Trump is, still, a member of our country’s family, you might say. As a mental health counselor who has worked in prisons and community mental health agencies, it is sad to see anyone suffer from mental illness. As Joe Biden says, in effect, we are all members of the American family and must care for each of its members accordingly. As is true of many I’ve worked with, Trump is suffering but is not aware he is suffering. Consequently, our country is suffering from his present behavior. We must take action to correct this.