Mod policy on mental illness

@Medievalist would you give me your thoughts on these two posts? -

ETA - Oops, I thought you were a mod! I misread your line saying “we’ll find out which side of the line it’s on.” Having said that, I still welcome your take on this!

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Moderator @orenwolf can provide you with further clarification.


Please see this topic where the nuances of this change were discussed.

Compassion doesn’t require labels. “We don’t know the circumstances surrounding why she behaved as she did, so we should act accordingly” is a compassionate, empathetic response.

Especially in light of similar acts of judgement such as:

This topic doesn’t need further discussion of the guideline polices, however. If you really want to discuss it further, please start a new topic. But I do believe that the prior meta topic was clear on the specifics.


I asked to be made a mod, but I was turned down. (Maybe I shouldn’t have said I planned to institute a reign of terror? Ah, lessons learned.)

My own opinion is that I agree with your second point (“Any comment attributing behavior to character makes an assumption about mental state.”) and also I believe it’s impossible to form a hard and fast rule of how to address unusual behavior with maximum compassion and empathy. There are loopholes in any ruleset (at least according to the mathematics boys, anyway) so we have to do our best and hope that the moderators and site owners will help us out by using their best judgement on our posts.


It’s interesting to me that discussions here usually seem to be around whether people exhibiting certain behaviors are ill, or are they evil/bad. Or are they idiots? Or were they just not raised right? Or were they abducted by aliens, and that explains everything?

More interesting to me, though, is the idea that we don’t need to know the cause of the behavior, in order to have compassion for the person’s suffering.

Ah, I see that @orenwolf and @Medievalist posted about compassion while I was busy typing.


I don’t need to discuss it further than one question. Regarding this post

If the woman in the video is displaying signs of a manic attack or psychotic episode, and in response to people in the comments calling her entitled and saying her behavior is appalling,
if I were to say “I’m not sure she’s to blame here - it looks to me like she’s having a psychotic episode of some sort”, would the comment be allowed? When I did so (my exact wording wouldn’t pass the new rule) it started a bit of discussion about not being quick to judge and having sympathy and understanding for people experiencing mental illness, but I’m wondering if my revised wording above would be okay. Thanks.

That’s the side of this I came in from; I am totally in favor of the rule and appreciate the need for it.


Thank you for moving this over.

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But you don’t know she is. And that’s the point. Until/unless it’s reported that she’s suffering from a mental illness, it’s inappropriate to attribute behaviour to mental state.

While I’m sure you are attempting to do so in good faith, how is such speculation different than many tiered, bad-faith, utterly inappropriate statements like attributing her behaviour to being “her time of the month” or because she appears to be an “X”, where X is a race/creed/religion/colour of skin? Why should mental illness get a pass when there are so many other inferences we would never make about a person and consider them appropriate?

The person in question was clearly having a bad day, and needs some form of assistance. Whether that assistance is for a mental illness, physical/chemical issue, or a clue-by-four to make her realize she’s being a total asshat, or something else, is unknown. But for all the reasons you cited in your reply, this is not the place to assume specifics of her situation.

And really, why does one need to? There are so many other aspects of that issue to discuss. What would you do in that situation? What could be done to prevent them in the future? Does being on a plane amplify emotional response the same way being in a car seems to (i.e. Road Rage)? Why do we ban cigarettes but permit alcohol when lots more unruliness and other such issues arise from inebriated passengers than smoking ones? etc. etc. etc.


Calling someone an asshole or saying they’re evil is making an assumption about their mental state - it assumes the person is mentally fit enough to be deserving of the label. I’m not being pedantic here; when reading the comments of the post I linked to I thought about how shitty it would be for someone with bipolar disorder to read the comments and see nothing but scorn. How is that not stigmatizing mental illness?

For reference, the woman in the video demands that they land the plane. When the attendant says something about their destination the woman replies, “I have a destination for this [referencing some item in her hand] and I have a destination for myself. And I need to go there.” Then she says “I swear if we don’t fucking land, I will fucking kill everybody on this fucking plane”
This is a behavior that people with bipolar disorder would recognize as possibly being a manic attack. In my comment I’m not saying “she’s psychotic or bipolar”, I’m saying that to me personally the woman appears to be behaving like she’s having a psychotic episode.

If I were to say “she looks like she’s having some serious problems, you can’t assume she’s just a bitch” would that pass?

Again, I appreciate this discussion and am not trying to be difficult or a comma fucker.


No, it’s not.

Someone can be completely sane and healthy, and still be an insufferable asshole.

Calling someone “evil” isn’t a judgment of their sanity; it’s judgment of their lack of character, or if you believe in such things, their soul.


No no, that’s exactly what I’m saying, I mean I wouldn’t call someone with a mental illness an asshole, would you? That would make me the asshole. If I call someone an asshole I’m assuming that they ARE sane, otherwise I would never say it.


(Deleted since @jtiii got there first with almost the same words)

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That’s a really good point - I’m often surprised when seeing a post wherein it looks to me like someone is in distress and yet there are some really callous comments. I feel like this crowd is sophisticated enough to at least keep their schadenfreude a little more subtle than that.

This particular debate is about whether and why it is okay to say someone is being an asshole but not okay to say “to me it looks like they are in some mental distress and therefore not deserving of the term asshole”.


If we’re concerned about hurting others (which we are), then saying someone is an asshole because of their behavior obviously may hurt others that suffer from a condition that causes them to behave like the person in question.

Again (for the umpteenth time) the current rule appears to allow for 100 comments insulting someone who is mentally ill, but not a single comment saying their actions may be the fault of an illness.

I’m trying to understand and get clarification regarding whether that is indeed the rule as intended, and what is admissible in a call for compassion.

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But a person with mental illness can be an asshole.

Perhaps this is where you’re having trouble, you’re attempting to diagnose people over the internet. Without training. With dodgy criteria. Using the word “sane” to describe someone who is not mentally ill is a categorical error, insanity is not a valid medical term as far as I’m aware.
This doesn’t make the words sane or insane useless, it’s just that it’s not a diagnostic you would expect from a mental health professional, so why use it to distinguish those that have a mental illness from those who do not?

My advice? When in doubt, say nothing.
If you absolutely must speak your mind, (which I don’t think this situation qualifies, but let’s go with it), then let’s analyze the form of this argument:

Why is it okay to say someone is being an asshole but not okay to say “to me it looks like they are in some mental distress and therefore not deserving of the term asshole”

If we reduce it to it’s simplest form:

“Why is it okay to say A but not okay to say B”

Short answer, because it is not B.
Long answer, it may not even be A but people are not going to call you out on it because even if it’s wrong, it’s not as wrong as B.

And really, that’s probably what you need to realize, calling someone an asshole is not necessarily correct, but people aren’t as quick to defend asshole behavior as they are to defend the improper labeling of mental illness. Which means that your argument would be challenged not because it’s necessarily incorrect, but because it is baseless. This makes it damaging because it further confuses our popular understanding of mental health issues. So the problem isn’t just that you would be wrong, it’s that you’d be “not even wrong”

Edit:I may have come across as too harsh.


Did you actually change anything or just add that line? :grin: I had just finished reading it and can’t tell if you rephrased anything.

It originally read:

So the problem isn’t just that you’re wrong, it’s that you’re “not even wrong”

As if we were not civilly discussing hypotheticals :smiley:

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Oh yeah for sure; I mean to say that I wouldn’t call someone with a mental illness an asshole for behavior that is caused by a mental illness. At worst I might tell a friend “you’re acting like an asshole”. Saying that someone is an asshole is basically dismissive and certainly judgmental.

Yeah I directly refute that statement. Of course it’s not necessary but it certainly may help somebody.

You’ve commented three times now and brought absolutely nothing new to the discussion. I have said repeatedly that I understand the basic rule and the need for it. I’m trying to get clarification on the nuances of it.

This is the most recent question I asked of @orenwolf. I am asking these questions in good faith. Further, the rules compel you to assume I’m asking these in good faith (check the faq if you need to). I have been trying to assume that you’re acting in good faith but the evidence appears to not bear that out.

For instance,

Your reply -

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I’d like to see us just not call anyone an asshole, either—whatever we think of the state of their mental health. It’s labeling/name-calling the person instead of describing/discussing specific observed behaviors. Calling someone an asshole makes it too easy for us to “other” the person and become blind to any good in them. I’d like to see us just not use that or similar terms/labels here.

Before people reply to say that it’s okay as long as you’re “punching up”— I don’t think name-calling is useful even when punching up. I’d like to see us stick to discussing policies, ideas, actions, results, etc., instead.