How Mental Illness Has Shaped Some of Our Greatest Leaders
It’s no secret that mental health issues don’t get the best treatment in society.
Despite progress being made, there is still a certain stigma attached to these issues, which leads people who have experienced them to stay quiet.
However, Nassir Ghaemi’s approach is one of acceptance and celebration of what mental illness can bring – particularly when it comes to leading countries.
If we look back into history, many of the world’s great leaders had psychological issues.
This means that accepting and embracing this tendency could be helpful in developing strong leaders that are capable of making an impact on their nations.
Rather than always going for those deemed ‘normal’, we should examine how having depression or bipolar disorder could actually work in your favor – as demonstrated by some of the most influential individuals in history.
In this section, you’ll explore the potential of traits such as hyperthymic personality disorder, finding out just how much influence it could have prevented nuclear war among other things.
You’ll also discover why it isn’t always accurate to portray Tony Blair as monomaniacal and you’ll begin to understand into which fields prejudice around mental health reaches – with surprising effects on its entrants.
The Gift of Mental Illness: How Depression and Bipolar Disorder Can Benefit Leaders
Mental illness can be a serious issue.
It can cause immense suffering for those affected and those around the sufferer.
Furthermore, the stigma attached to such illnesses often prevents sufferers from openly addressing their issues.
However, there is some evidence that certain mental illnesses may actually improve leadership abilities in ways that an average person might not possess.
Major depressive disorder (often shortened to ‘depression’) and bipolar disorder are two such illnesses which have been routinely linked with mental strength and creativity.
For instance, someone suffering from depression may have a greater capacity for empathy as they gain an understanding of sadness through having gone through it themselves.
This can lead to improved decision-making as leaders are more likely to take into account the feelings of those who will be affected by their choices.
How Depression Can Lead to Radical Empathy: An Analysis of the Lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi
Doctors Ghaemi and Poussaint agree that both Martin Luther King Jr.
and Mahatma Gandhi, two major pioneers in civil rights movements all around the world, suffered from depression at various stages of their lives.
As children, both of them tried to take their own lives: When Gandhi was a teenager, he intentionally consumed poisonous seeds; King twice jumped out of windows during his childhood.
Due to their depression, outside factors such as pressure and frustration due to insurmountable obstacles only exacebated their feelings of guilt and responsibility towards their followers.
What’s more, research has shown that those affected by depression develop a stronger empathy than what would be expected for regular people – meaning they are more likely to consider the viewpoint of an adversary even in tense situations.
In this light, it is not difficult to see why these two opted for non-violent resistance in order to bring about positive change: Not only on paper but in action as well, they championed understanding and love over hatred for antagonists – stemming from a depressed yet powerful worldview which makes up “radical empathy”.
How Mental Illness In Three Great Leaders Played a Role in Their Historical Significance
It’s well known that Churchill and JFK were two of the most influential figures in history.
But what many people don’t know is that both men struggled with mental health issues.
Their respective conditions – type II bipolar disorder for Churchill, and hyperthymic personality disorder for Kennedy – may have contributed significantly to their actions as world leaders.
On one hand, Churchill’s depressive episodes allowed him to make decisions more realistically than his mentally healthy colleagues.
This likely saved Britain from entering a war with Germany and was evident in the House of Commons after Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 announcement.
Everyone present jumped up and cheered the plan, except for Churchill who simply remained seated despite the rebukes he received.
JFK, on the other hand, benefited from his hyperthymic personality disorder during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
His creative risk-taking mentality meant that he was able to ignore his advisers’ calls for a pre-emptive strike and avoided a nuclear disaster by holding firm against Nikita Khrushchev’s provocation.
On the other hand, mania in a leader can be incredibly dangerous which is exemplified by Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
It’s believed that Hitler had bipolar disorder which may have been exacerbated by his prolonged use of methamphetamines from 1937 onward.
This weighed heavily on decision making process as it lessened his ability to listen to advice given to him by subordinates resulting in violent outbursts carried out throughout Germany as Leader of Nazi Party before and during World War II.
The Search for an Alternative: How Mental Illness Could Have Changed History
When Tony Blair and George W.
Bush were both at the helm of their respective countries, many people questioned their state of mental health due to the unpopular political decisions they were making.
However, the author insists that their thought processes were in line with what would be expected from mentally healthy minds.
In response to 9/11, Hadley and Blair both felt as though their countries were under threat and decided to invade Iraq based on questionable evidence.
If these leaders had hyperthymia or bipolar personalities, which have been linked to heightened creativity levels, they may have been able to see alternative perspectives of the situation and realized they wouldn’t have enough evidence for invasion.
After making a decision they felt was right, they refused to accept that they may have been wrong and wanted to continue despite it being clear their efforts weren’t successful.
This reflects typical behavior of those who are considered mentally healthy by society standards today – unwilling to admit mistakes or change course when things aren’t going according to plan.
We Need to De-stigmatize Mental Health to Unlock the Benefits of Mental Illness
Mental illness is a taboo subject, and there is clear evidence that we are afraid of it.
Even medical professionals prone to treating mental illnesses have been found to have biased attitudes.
This illustrates why it can be difficult for those with mental illness and for non-sufferers to understand the condition.
This contributes to the stigma that keeps people from understanding or talking about it.
There are ways that this stigma can be reduced and more constructive views on mental illness will become normalised.
One way is by simply accepting facts that many well remembered world leaders had psychiatric difficulties, which in no shape or form needs to overshadow the importance of their actions in history.
There needs to be a shift in how society perceives such figures and a reframing of how their experiences contribute positively to their place in history.
Additionally, when people see the benefits schizophrenia, depression or other forms of mental illnesses bring, rather than seeing just negative connotations only associated with mental health issues, then as a society we will start gaining more empathy normally associated with physical health issues allowing us to become more inclusive when talking about mental health problems in general population.
Once these stigmas are removed more people may actually seek diagnosis and assist instead of letting their troubles get worse due to feeling ashamed or alone.
Understanding these relative benefits of mentals illnesses will help remove the lasting stigma surrounding them so that everybody can open up conversations about it without fear of judgement.
The concluding summary of A First-Rate Madness is this: Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
It can be difficult, exhausting and upsetting for those affected – both directly and indirectly – but it can also lead to success.
Just look at some of the greatest leaders in history who have been remarkable precisely because they have managed their mental health issues effectively.
This book sheds some insight on how we all can strive to achieve something great no matter what’s going on in our minds or our lives.