Mental Health Expectations of People in Leadership

mental healthOne of our unspoken but always present criteria for an elected official is good mental health. This is criteria we expect of any working professional, but perhaps none more so than those we elect to public office. Elected officials are responsible in many ways for the well being and quality of life of the people in their jurisdiction. People elect public officials trusting that they will represent their interests in an intelligent, sound way. Voters would recoil from a candidate who demonstrated mental health problems.

This is a fair requirement. An elected official who is not mentally healthy would not be capable of making sound decisions that represent the public’s best interest. Anyone who is mentally unhealthy struggles to make good decisions. Being mentally unhealthy means that you do not perceive things correctly. You interpret things in an unrealistic way that is not based in reality but is based in your own unhealthy thought patterns. It is not too much to require that our elected leaders have good mental health for sound decision making.

Having said this, we also need to remember to be reasonable in what we expect from elected leaders. Some people forget that elected officials are still human and hold them to a standard of perfection that is unattainable for anyone. This is not a healthy or reasonable standard to place on a person.

It is important that we define a fair standard of mental health for our public officials. We cannot elect people who are unstable or in danger of poor decision making. Yet we also cannot expect sheer perfection from our elected leaders. We must find a reasonable compromise. It is true that an elected official should have a very strong history of mental health and should be held accountable for evidence that suggests otherwise. But an elected official also deserves privacy and should not have every element of their personal lives scrutinized. There is a point where defining mental health standards becomes very subjective and is unreasonable to apply to an elected official of any kind.