Can the President-Elect Yield Gross National Happiness?


On a daily basis, our patients demonstrate their resilience to face reality and rise above their challenges, despite the odds. So shall we.


By now, surprised or not, Donald J. Trump is our President-Elect. That result is a far cry from the results of the Psychiatric Times Presidential Poll.

How should we in mental health care respond? Without being naïve, we see that Mr. Trump exhibited in his acceptance speech that we can all be gracious, respectful, and hopeful.

Much like postwar reconciliation after the American Civil War, it is now a time for healing and a collaborative transfer of power. We can then work to improve the lives of those left behind-“the implorables” (as opposed to “the deplorables.")

Some of our patients experienced anxiety during the campaign, and it will likely escalate with uncertainty about the future and the fate of health care reform. They will need us to be realistically supportive and to address whatever unique patient trauma and transference reactions might be connected to this race. We would do well to keep our personal opinions to ourselves and monitor any countertransference reactions.

Be of good cheer, GNH is here

I would hope that Mr. Trump’s learning curve is swift. He and other leaders would do well to take from the little country of Bhutan, where I am now visiting. With a population of less than a million, it is located between India and Tibet. It only opened up to the world with television and the Internet in 1999.

Bhutan is renowned for its governmental concern for Gross National Happiness (GNH)-a population-based complement to our constitutional right to an individual's pursuit of happiness. The GNH has 4 main principles that will go a long way in the years ahead:

1. good government
2. environmental conservation
3. sustained development
4. cultural continuity

Ever since this principle was established by young King Wangchuk in the early 1970s,1 much has been accomplished. For example, the country has transitioned to a democracy and it is first in the world to be carbon negative.

Because Bhutan is based on Buddhist tradition, it is believed that the “enlightened ones” embrace a combination of wisdom, compassion, and power. I tried to convey the message in my recent APA Administrative Award speech, titled "Ethical Love in the Leadership and Administration of Psychiatry and Society."

Many of our patients have overcome great odds and obstacles to recover and succeed. In that sense, the pop psychology analysis that either candidate had mental illness is moot. One need not be religious to exude Bhutanese leadership in medicine and in politics. On a daily basis, our patients demonstrate their resilience to face reality and rise above their challenges, despite the odds. So shall we.


1. Pommaret F. Bhutan: Himalayan Mountain Kingdom. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books and Guides; 2009.

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