Federal health officials were ordered not to post about mental health after Trump linked it to shootings: report

Federal health officials were ordered not to post about mental health after Trump linked it to shootings: report
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Communications employees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were warned not to post anything on social media regarding mental health or violence after two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. 

The Aug. 5 memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post, alarmed some of the agency’s staffers, who believed the warning was intended to prevent anyone from challenging President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says inviting Russia to G7 'a question of common sense' Pentagon chief does not support invoking Insurrection Act Dershowitz: Does President Trump have power to declare martial law? MORE’s claim that mental illness played a role in the two attacks. 


An HHS employee told the Post he had “no doubt this was meant to prevent anybody from making any statements that might contradict the president.”

“We understand we’re not supposed to contradict the president, but it’s not typical” for the administration to mandate senior officials clear social media posts, he added. 

After the initial directive was sent around to staffers who contribute to official social media accounts, some employees received another email from National Institutes of Health spokeswoman Renate Myles asking them to “please send any posts related to mental health, violence or other topics associated with mass shootings for review before posting.” 

“Regardless of topic, it’s the Department’s longstanding practice to not get ahead of the President’s remarks. This allows the President to share his message first with the nation,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement to The Hill. 

“Any suggestions that this was a formal policy put in place related to social media or meant to stymie work on this issue, are factually inaccurate. These were staff level discussions seeking to be sensitive and respectful to the victims and their families affected by tragedies of that weekend,” she added, noting that the agency tweeted out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline immediately following the attacks in El Paso and Dayton. 

Trump, while initially appearing open to implementing certain gun control reforms following the two shootings, which killed a combined 31 people, seems to have backtracked in recent days. Rather than supporting expanded background checks or “red flag” laws, Trump has repeated earlier assertions that shootings are a “mental problem” and floated reopening more mental institutions to solve the issue

However, researchers often point out that many other developed nations have similar rates of mental illness yet only a fraction of the number of shootings.

The FBI found in a 2018 report on 63 active-shooter assailants that 25 percent had been diagnosed with a mental illness. Another 2015 study of 226 men who committed or tried to commit mass killings found that only 22 percent could be considered mentally ill.