Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, the Director of the Moods Disorder Program at Tufts Medical Center, has just written A First Rate Madness; a book about the links between leadership and mental illness.
Dr. Ghaemi, a psychiatrist, says Abraham Lincoln was depressed, Winston Churchill was bipolar, and both JFK and FDR were manic. He goes further to find sickness in business leaders (CNN founder Ted Turner), social activists (MLK, Mahatma Gandhi), and military commanders (Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman).
After diagnosing them as mentally ill Ghaemi goes on to say that we should stop stigmatizing these people as sick or healthy, and even acknowledge that a little bit of peculiarity and color could be an asset in leadership.
I say let’s stop diagnosing our colorful peculiarities as diseases, because this is why 25% of all Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness. Psychiatrists have succeeded in labeling peculiar/unusual thoughts and behaviors as diseases; this is ridiculous.
Lincoln, Churchill, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were exactly what we needed in great leaders; they found a way to mobilize their unique talents, got us through hard times, and lifted our spirits. If they were alive today Dr. Ghaemi’s diagnoses would have resulted in their being subdued with drugs.
Stop the pervasive psychiatric labeling of unusual styles and behaviors as mental illnesses and let’s start celebrating the nobility of our weirdness.