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Did Andrew Yang just kill his political career? 'Mentally ill' comments slammed

NYC Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang was slammed for saying 'mentally ill' while speaking about his plans to deal with people with psychological issues
UPDATED JUN 23, 2021
New York City Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang speaks at a press conference on January 14, 2021, in New York City (Michael M Santiago/Getty Images)
New York City Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang speaks at a press conference on January 14, 2021, in New York City (Michael M Santiago/Getty Images)

New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is once again at the receiving end of massive online trolling. This time, social media is targeting the businessman over his plan for those with psychological conditions, whom he called "mentally ill". Yang's choice of words has not gone down well with social media, while others have praised his plans to help build New York City in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Yang, who rose to national fame after running for president in 2020, has been massively trolled in recent months. In May, he was slammed for tweeting his support for Israel, following the repeated bombing of Palestine. In March, he was also widely criticized for his silence over the Atlanta spa shootings, where Robert Aaron Long appeared to target Asian Americans. On the campaign trail in 2020, he was also slammed for saying the Democratic party had lost touch with the working class. 


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Despite those criticisms, Yang has widely been considered a popular frontrunner for NYC mayor, but he might have just put that in jeopardy. Yang has a plan to fix NYC's mental health crisis, but the way he said it seemed to annoy and anger many people on social media. 

New York Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang speaks to members of the media along Canal Street in Chinatown on April 5, 2021, in New York City (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

'Hundreds of mentally ill people' need help says Yang

Yang's comments came at the third and final Democratic Mayoral debate ahead of the election. Speaking on the city's homelessness problem, Yang said, "We are not talking about housing affordability, we are talking about the hundreds of mentally ill people we all see around us every day." Yang wants to move these people off the streets and into a "better environment". His plan involves increasing the number of 'psych beds', which he said, "should be going up 100%". 

He said that was a fix until "there are resources necessary for anyone who is mentally ill to not be on our streets". At another point, he said, "Yes mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else has rights? We do! The people and families of the city," Yang claimed. "We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us."


Doctors, psychologists and experts have called on people to avoid using the term "mentally ill", and instead use the term "people with mental illness". Political correctness aside, Yang found himself at the receiving end for his poor choice of words. Apart from the use of the term mentally ill, Yang was also slammed for differentiating between those with mental illnesses, and the people of New York, and classifying all mental illnesses as one. 

'He should know better'

"This guy really out here speaking as if “people who are mentally ill” and “people who have families” is not…a 100% correlation. Every mentally ill person has a family. You should think about that for a while @AndrewYang!" one person tweeted. Another said, "Mentally ill people deserve rights, healthcare, and respect. Andrew Yang talking about getting mentally ill people off the streets so that other people don’t have to *deal* with us is truly appalling and is setting a lot of progress we’ve made back."



Another commented, "The rhetoric of separating the mentally ill from the rest of the “people... in the city” is so so dangerous. Mental health crises can not be resolved by employing Yang’s us vs. them mentality. His policies will put Black mentally ill and unhoused people at risk." One person said, "Particularly gross statement by @AndrewYang- this is mere peddling of an old (false) stereotype of mentally ill people being more dangerous than the called sane; he should know better."



One person trolled, "Yang’s answer to the mentally ill is to lock them up? Sounds reasonable for a half wit." Another wondered, "How is this the same guy that introduced UBI to most of America? The Mental Health Crisis genuinely needs to be addressed with compassion, not fearmongering. A depressed dude isn't gonna run into your house and stab your family, Yang."



While the entire nation is struggling with a mental health crisis, New York City seems to be a particularly problematic hotspot. A May 2021 story found that nearly one in every 25 New Yorkers lives with a serious mental illness. It also noted that the 311 hotline recorded over 17,330 calls between March and December 2020, nearly 85 times the number recorded in 2019. Yang is one of the few candidates to propose a plan to tackle the issue, but he needs to get better at conveying it as Twitter noted. 

Whether these comments will kill Yang's career is yet to be seen. The billionaire faces a stiff challenge in the primaries, and even if he manages to win, he will still have to convince New Yorkers he is better than the Republicans. It's not going to be easy and now Yang has clearly made himself less popular, but the long-term effects will only be noted once we know who the Democrats will field in 2022 for Mayor.