Orange County

Trio of mental health pros allege Trump, behavior disturbing, dangerously unstable

Edwin Fisher hosts a forum at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Saturday discussing the behavior of President Donald Trump.
Edwin Fisher hosts a forum at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Saturday discussing the behavior of President Donald Trump. jjohnson@heraldsun.com

There was a group therapy session in Chapel Hill on Saturday and the topic was President Donald Trump’s fitness to lead the nation.

A trio of North Carolina mental health professionals held a forum at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Saturday to discuss and raise awareness about Trump’s behavior that they labeled disturbing. Edwin Fisher, a psychologist and UNC-Chapel Hill professor, along with Asheville psychiatrist Steven Buser and psychologist Richard Smoot, are part of a group of mental health professionals who believe the president is dangerously unstable.

Around the country other forums took place Saturday that had the same theme of “duty to warn.” That’s also the name for their loose association with other mental health professionals with the same feelings about Trump.

The Chapel Hill trio was careful not to suggest they were making any type of diagnosis on the president’s mental health but rather were describing his behavior in ways that fit definitions in their field. They said they were there to raise awareness about the potential danger the president may place the country in because of his questionable behavior.

“There is something going on here and we’re seeking to understand it,” Fisher said. “We want to see what he is tapping into.”

Fisher compared Trump’s behavior to that of ripoff artist Bernie Madoff, who defrauded millions of dollars from investors by way of a Ponzi scheme. He said Trump and Madoff share some of the same characteristics of being able to exhibit a level of confidence that allows them to manipulate deceptively for personal gain.

“I’m not a mind reader,” Fisher said. “I can only glean from what I have seen.”

Buser said the country needs to wake up out of a trance that seems to have gripped the country when it comes to Trump’s behavior.

Smoot said he reached his conclusions after watching Trump during the last year.

“Put his views side by side and they’re inconsistent,” Smoot said. “But people hear what they want to hear. There’s always been twisting and spin in politics but Donald Trump has shown to be lying and it is so brash. I want to understand why people believe him.”

All three said there was a cleverness to Trump.

“There are some things he is very bright about,” Smoot said.

About 60 people attended Saturday’s forum.

Some were concerned about Trump’s fitness to be president. Others voiced their fears about the consequences of Trump’s actions as president, including the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.

“I wanted to see if there was anything I could learn today and if there was any action that may come of it,” said Michele Zembow, a retired psychologist. “I was interested to see other people’s perceptions, particularly on a mental health perspective.”

Fisher mentioned a colleague from South Korea who said that in that country they now fear the actions of Trump more than they do those of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Fisher contributed a chapter to a controversial new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” that argues the president is so “mentally compromised” that his presence in high office is a hazard.

The controversy comes because the American Psychiatric Association has twice this year urged practitioners to avoid offering public opinions about the mental health of someone they haven’t personally examined.

Fisher, a professor at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health since 2005, said the book essentially argues there are signs Trump suffers from narcissism and sociopathy. He said the combination is a volatile one in high-stakes situations, particularly if supporters and aides begin to abandon the president.

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