This was originally published on Liberal America on November 16, 2016.
Just last week, we elected Donald Trump to be our next president. As if this wasn’t horrifying enough, he has selected Steve Bannon, the RWNJ executive chairman of the alt-right website Breitbart News Network, to be his Chief Strategist. Breitbart has become a voice for right-wing extremists, otherwise known as the “alt-right.”
He has added onto his level of nastiness by displaying his ignorance about mental health and mental illness.
In December 2015, Bannon talked to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) about Ryan’s proposed mental health reforms. Ryan proposed an “overhaul” of the mental health system after the Colorado shooting.
Some emails have surfaced about this issue. Bannon was talking to his Washington editor, Matt Boyle, about a story promoting Ryan’s reforms.
In one of these emails, Bannon said:
“I’ve got a cure for mental health issue. Spank your children more.”
This is one of the major stereotypes against people with mental health issues or mental illnesses. Mental illness is not a character flaw or a weakness. It is a serious health issue that we fight every day. One in four people struggle with mental health issues in their lives.
The stigma often keeps people from getting the help they desperately need. Former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter aptly said this about stigma:
“One does not work long on mental health issues before recognizing the additional hardships caused by stigma.”
President-elect Donald Trump briefly mentioned mental health in his campaign. His website says:
“Finally, we need to reform our mental health programs and institutions in this country. Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones. There are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bi-partisan support.”
Hopefully, Trump will do something to help people who are having trouble getting access to mental health services. He definitely should not get his advice from Steve Bannon.
These are painful diseases, and those of us who suffer deserve proper treatment.