The cure for mental health is not ignorance
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Comments made by Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonChris Christie claims Jared Kushner enacted 'hit job' as revenge for prosecuting father On immigration - Congress should not pay the hostage taker Schiff says Kushner, Bannon invoked ‘bogus privileges’ in testimonies before Congress MORE, newly appointed chief strategist to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE, were recently released from his December 2015 email exchange with Breitbart editor, Matt Boyle. 

Boyle had suggested posting a story supporting Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism MORE’s plan to reform the government’s mental health system.

Bannon not only rejected the idea, but countered, “I’ve got a cure for mental health issue(s). Spank your children more.”

Not only is this attitude towards mental health ignorant, but it perpetuates stigma around the issue.

This can lead people to decide against seeking treatment and worse yet, cause other politicians to advocate for legislation that further diminishes already dwindling mental health resources.

It is imperative we clear up misconceptions about what causes mental illness and the damaging effects of spanking.

Although the exact cause of most mental illness is not known, many believe in the biopsychosocial model, attributing mental illness to a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are often genetically inherited. Other mental disorders are more likely caused by psychological trauma, significant life stressors and/or medical conditions.

Regardless of the precise cause of a given mental illness or the combination of factors that contributed to its development, it is important that individuals seek treatment because mental illness left untreated can lead to disability or even death.

People with mental illness have often been stereotyped as weak, incapable of dealing with stress and violent. They did not choose to suffer from debilitating mental conditions. In fact, most people with mental illness are not violent and are actually more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.  

Although spanking is a common method of punishment amongst parents, this form of discipline has the potential to cause more harm than good.

Studies have shown that corporal punishment has been associated with adverse effects in childhood, causing children to believe that they are bad, increased aggression, behavioral problems, delinquent and antisocial behavior, and decreased quality in parent-child relationships. 

Additionally, corporal punishment has been associated with long-term consequences in adulthood, including criminal and antisocial behavior, aggression, and abuse of one’s own spouse and children. 

We elect our politicians in the hope that they will support and create policies and laws that address the needs and best interests of the people. It is alarming when individuals in positions of power and influence make comments that ridicule issues that affect millions of citizens. Is it not part of their responsibility to learn about mental health when they enact policies that affect how and even if a person can access treatment?

I am completely opposed to  Bannon’s idea of a “cure” for mental health and appalled by his indifference to the issue. 

Comments like his only serve to stigmatize and marginalize people who are in need of acceptance and assistance.

I sincerely hope that people with political influence will strive to make an effort to learn more about mental illness and viable treatments. We should also come to realize how desperately more resources are needed. Unfortunately, the only cure for ignorance is an active desire and effort to educate oneself.

Celia Trotta, M.D., M.B.A., is a board certified psychiatrist and founder of


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.