This year, a number of potential violent incidents have been curtailed because ordinary citizens have discovered the disturbed person’s intent to harm others and turned them in.
The list of averted school and workplace shootings is growing, probably because the media’s reconstruction and analysis of these events is paying off in greater public awareness. As a culture, we’re taking more seriously people who come across as threatening, angry or bizarre. Given the frequency of violent events, the notion of an “idle threat” no longer holds.
A mental health professional has a special role in this. They bear a formal responsibly to their community that supersedes a client’s privacy: This is the “duty to warn” obligation. If a client, or any person in the public sphere, is so ill that they present a physical danger to others, the discerning professional must alert police about the impending danger.
This process protects, not just the target of intended harm, but the safety of the aggressor as well. Their precarious mental state may be a temporary or drug induced crisis, or the end stage of a terrifying descent into psychosis. Many a lost soul, ordered by a court into psychiatric care, has looked back with thanks to the person who cared enough to get them arrested so they couldn’t commit mayhem.
As a retired clinician and professor in medical schools, my letters to The Argus-Press in recent years can be seen as a persistent duty to warn readers about the threat our president’s mental condition poses to the country’s stability, safety and moral integrity.
A few weeks ago a chilling milestone in his decline occurred when he bragged that he was “the most transparent president in our history.” This assertion occurred while he was desperately keeping his tax and business records hidden, as well as portions of the Mueller report, which he knew documented his efforts to obstruct justice. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to recognize this as a spilt in the self: that one part of his mind (and identity) is riven from what is actual.
This is a primitive ego defense and a sign of psychic “dis-integration.” Not surprisingly, childish tantrums, paranoid rants and threats have led some White House staff and Congress to observe that he seems insane at times.
Dr. Brandy Lee is a Yale psychiatrist who is an authority on violence. She organized a sizable consortium of mental health professionals to study Trump’s behavior and utterances and, in 2017, wrote a bestseller, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” She feels, “Trump is going to get worse and will become uncontainable with the pressures of the presidency.” She and her coauthors recently examined the Mueller report and concluded “The evidence of the president’s mental incapacity is overwhelming “ and his diminishing hold on reality endangers the nation.
She worries most about his proximity to the nuclear codes. So do I, and so should we all now that we’re duly warned.