Recognizing the relative benefits of mental illness will aid in de-stigmatizing it.
Despite the author’s sympathetic portrayal of mental illness, the fact remains that mental illness remains a taboo subject.
There’s clear evidence that we, as a society, are scared of mental illness. A 2004 study published in the Psychiatric Bulletin showed that even medical professionals were prejudiced against people diagnosed with mental illnesses.
This situation makes it incredibly difficult for someone faced with mental illness. It also makes it very tricky for non-sufferers to get a clear perspective on it. Specifically, the continuing stigma surrounding mental illness means we’re unable to see its upsides.
The first thing we could do is simply acknowledge and accept that past world leaders weren’t always mentally healthy. That doesn’t mean we have to rewrite history. It’s just another layer of knowledge contributing to our picture of the past.
Mentally ill people have contributed to make the world a better place. The examples we’ve looked at in these blinks barely scratch the surface.
The author has also analyzed other renowned figures. For instance, Ted Turner, a pioneer of 24-hour cable news and the founder of CNN, experienced mental illness, as did President Abraham Lincoln. Turner displayed a hyperthymic personality type, while Lincoln was dysthymic.
We should accept, then, that mental health isn’t just a question of “abnormal” types contrasted with seemingly normative behavior. That approach is typical of people who consider themselves mentally fit and distance themselves from anything that is marked as different.
Once we’ve accepted that beloved historical figures were mentally unwell and started de-stigmatizing mental health, we can move onto the next step. In this changed atmosphere, more people will doubtless seek diagnosis and help. No longer will diagnosis be something to be ashamed of, but rather something with appreciable qualities.
That analysis seemed true to the author as he wrote this book during the presidency of the forty-fourth US president, “No drama Obama”, as he is often known. At the time, an ideal president seemed to be someone who was balanced and “middle-of-the-road” – psychologically as well as politically.
For the author, here’s where the rub lies. That sort of president might be effective in peaceful times, but what kind of leader is needed when times are rockier? To his mind, what’s needed is someone who can think differently, someone who’s an asset because of the mental health issues he’s experienced. Think of Churchill in World War Two or JFK in the teeth of the Cold War – the leaders you need in times of crisis.