WELLNESS
06/08/2016 04:45 pm ET

How Donald Trump Gets It Wrong On Mental Illness Every Time

His rhetoric isn't just stigmatizing, it's factually incorrect.
Donald Trump continuously stigmatizes people with mental health issues.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Donald Trump continuously stigmatizes people with mental health issues.

When it comes to mental health disorders, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has everything backwards. 

His rhetoric isn’t just stigmatizing, it’s also factually incorrect. In one primary debate, Trump perpetuated the myth that those who are mentally ill are more likely to act violently. 

“I feel that the gun-free zones and, you know, when you say that, that’s target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill,” he said at the time. “They look around for gun-free zones.”

And after two Virginia journalists were killed last August, Trump was quick to blame mental illness -- not a lack of gun laws -- for the tragedy. He told CNN that it shouldn't be difficult for “sane people” to have access to guns. He also said those who knew the shooter from the incident most likely thought he should be institutionalized.

This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem,” Trump said. “It’s not a question of laws, it’s really the people.”

Trump, like so many others, incorrectly correlates mental illness with volatile behavior toward others when that's hardly the case. Studies show that people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of a violent crime than to perpetrate one. Data also suggests that only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to an individual with a serious mental illness.

But it's not just gun control over which Trump marginalizes individuals with a mental health disorder. He shamed and fired a candidate on his reality show "The Apprentice" back in 2004 for exhibiting mental health issues, as chronicled by The Daily Beast. He also seemingly mocked former candidate Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi Cruz, for an episode of depression.

And his Twitter narrative reveals that mental health issues, in his mind, are fodder for schoolyard taunting:

Phrases like the ones Trump uses, such as "crazy" and "basket case," contribute to misconceptions about mental health and can lead to dangerous consequences. Medical support is the most effective way to manage and resolve mental health disorders, but research shows stigma can prevent people with mental illness from seeking treatment.

Nearly one in five American adults will experience a mental health issue in a given year. That includes a huge portion of Trump's supporters -- and an even greater group when looking at the national population. Trump's dialogue is completely damaging to many of the people he's hoping to govern.

People with mental illness go to work, they take their kids to baseball practice and they head to their polling places to vote. Most importantly, they can -- and do -- live healthy, fulfilling and productive lives. But based on the way he talks about those individuals, Trump doesn't see it that way. 

Does that sound like a person fit for the Oval Office?

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