Stop linking conspiracy theories with mental illness

Letters

Wrongly associating extremist beliefs with mental illness stigmatises those who struggle with mental health problems, write Dr Annie Hickox and Dr Ruth Ann Harpur

A QAnon sign held at a Donald Trump rally.
A QAnon sign held at a Donald Trump rally. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty
A QAnon sign held at a Donald Trump rally. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty

Last modified on Fri 13 Nov 2020 12.51 EST

Your recent article about the conspiracy theorists QAnon (Facebook, QAnon and the world’s slackening grip on reality, 11 November) was illustrated with a highlighted quote stating “QAnon seems to turn people into angry, bitter, volatile people. It’s a mental health issue”.

As practising clinical psychologists, a key part of our work is to reduce the widespread stigma and mythology about mental illness, both in our everyday parlance and on social media. Far too often we see mental health slurs used as insults or, for example, exploited by armchair psychologists who want to provide a lazy and populist diagnosis of the current US president.

These pseudoscientific observations may grab headlines, but they add to the shaming and stigmatisation of people who struggle with mental health problems.

We ask the Guardian to make a sustained and active effort to avoid language that promotes the fallacious link between mental illness and people judged to be angry, bitter and volatile characters.
Dr Annie Hickox
Clinical neuropsychologist
Dr Ruth Ann Harpur
Clinical psychologist