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A Question of Mental Fitness

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Why do we assume that our leaders are mentally fit?

Many professions require that a mental fitness evaluation be completed prior to performing their duties. Law enforcement, firefighters and military personnel are some of the careers where a mental fitness evaluation provides significant information about applicants' ability to perform. The reason behind this requirement is simply that applicants to these types of jobs need to be able to perform well under stressful situations. It is not a secret that stress greatly affects mental health and cognitive performance. (X)

These mental fitness tests, however, do not determine if you are "crazy" or not. The tests are not supposed to detect psychopathology. They simply map out personality traits as they pertain to the job in question. Are you too impulsive or too anxious? Do you have a tendency to hold grudges? How narcissistic are you??

For example, police officers are subjected to psychological screenings that assesses areas such as general intelligence, integrity and judgment.

In general, mental fitness evaluations may include personality and neuropsychological tests.

Understanding the neurological sources of individual differences helps identify brain-based disorders in attention, memory, personality, self-awareness (conscious experience), cognition, and emotional expression. Understanding these differences in learning can define current and future expectations in the lifestyle of the individual. Testing will give a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s strengths and impairments. (X)

Based on the above description, requiring mental fitness evaluations would be almost an essential part of the hiring process for these types of careers. It would also be important to administer these types of tests regularly, say every two years or when something significant happens to the individual that may change their mental state.

What about requiring these types of evaluations for other very important careers and roles? Say WORLD LEADERS? These are the individuals in charge of representing and leading a country... don't you think they should be required to participate in a thorough evaluation as part of the standard vetting process? I am not talking about a simple screening, but a full-blown neuropsychological evaluation.

History is full of deranged and otherwise unfit leaders. Either because they had unresolved trauma, psychopathic traits or simply because they were/are too old these individuals should have never been/be in a position of power. I guess some of them are up for debate (for those who blindly support a certain ideology no matter who is at the helm), but others are undeniably "out there." Interestingly, there have been studies about those individuals and the personality traits that make them gravitate toward politics from the narcissist to the Machiavellian to the totalitarian, it is hard to know which one would actually be less damaging to a country or state. (X)

So, knowing this: the fact that not just anyone wants to rule and be recognized for it... Why have we become so complacent and allow for this indiscriminate process of appointing leaders to happen? Only to then regret and wonder: how did he or she get into power??

I realize this may seem like an unsurmountable task, weeding out the unfit and undesirables but we may be able to start with something widely accepted and understood: OLD, - yes, I know that 60 is the new 40, - people should not rule the world.

A simple rule of thumb that should make or break a candidate is their age. There are many reasons why people retire by the age of 70. In fact, as a general rule, cognitive decline begins at the age of 60.

The natural aging process is impossible to avoid, but its effects go beyond fine lines and wrinkles on our skin. As we age, our body goes through a number of changes and our brain isn’t the exception. (X)

I am sure grandpa and grandma were brilliant and continue to be a joy to be around, but are they mentally ready to lead a country in this day and age? From memory problems to difficulty making decisions and becoming overwhelmed, elderly individuals should not be in positions of power for everyone's sake (I mean everyone, including themselves). Surprisingly, "The United States Constitution requires Senators to be at least 30 years of age. Age does not determine seniority in the Senate. As of August 26, 2019, 5 senators are in their 80s, 18 are in their 70s, 32 are in their 60s, 30 are in their 50s, 14 are in their 40s, and 1 is in his 30s." (X) So, they cannot be under 30 years old, but they can be well above 80...

The average age of senators in this Congress is 63.9, and the average age of a House member is 58.3.(X)

Are we okay with that? Well, we appear to continue to vote them in until they willingly decide to go into retirement. I realize talking about mental fitness with an elderly family member may be a touchy subject but c'mon this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

A Z Form may just be the tool to initiate this uncomfortable but necessary discussion. World peace may depend on it!

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