Giving Compass’ Take:
• Writing for The Conversation, psychiatry professor Ronald W. Pies explains the meaning of pathological bigotry and why it should be treated as a public health problem, treated by promoting more self-awareness.
• The author mentions previous public health initiatives that were successful, such as media campaigns against cigarette smoking. How can funders support innovative approaches to fight bigotry?
Over a decade ago, I wrote a piece for a psychiatric journal entitled “Is Bigotry a Mental Illness?” At the time, some psychiatrists were advocating making “pathological bigotry” or pathological bias — essentially, bias so extreme it interferes with daily function and reaches near-delusional proportions — an official psychiatric diagnosis. For a variety of medical and scientific reasons, I wound up opposing that position.
In brief, my reasoning was this: Some bigots suffer from mental illness, and some persons with mental illness exhibit bigotry — but that doesn’t mean that bigotry per se is an illness.
Yet in the past few weeks, in light of the hatred and bigotry the nation has witnessed, I have been reconsidering the matter. I’m still not convinced that bigotry is a discrete illness or disease, at least in the medical sense. But I do think there are good reasons to treat bigotry as a public health problem. This means that some of the approaches we take toward controlling the spread of disease may be applicable to pathological bigotry: for example, by promoting self-awareness of bigotry and its adverse health consequences.
In a recent piece in The New York Times, health care writer Kevin Sack referred to the “virulent anti-Semite” who carried out the horrific shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018.
Read the full article about bigotry and public health by Ronald W. Pies at The Conversation.
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