Please read a vitally important post in today’s Los Angeles Times on Mental Health and Children. The author, Laurel L. Williams, is program director of the Menninger Clinic’s adolescent treatment program and assistant director of residency training, child and adolescent psychiatry and assistant professor in the Menninger department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. She states, “too often, the system conspires to treat behavioral problems with pills.”
Here is an excerpt. She tells the shattering story of an ten year old taking eight different pills for a bipolar disorder he probably doesn’t have.
I need these pills refilled,” the weary mother says, displaying an array of empty bottles on the desk in my office. “My son is bipolar.”
The boy, a quiet slip of a 10-year-old, had been prescribed two antipsychotics, two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, two attention deficit disorder medications and another medication to manage the side effects of the antipsychotics.
The mother explained that she had just regained custody of her son and his brother. During the last year, while they were in foster care, a doctor had diagnosed the 10-year-old with bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder and prescribed eight medications.
In the hour I spent with the boy and his mother, he exhibited no signs or symptoms of bipolar disorder, though he did display some irritability. In school, he continued to perform poorly in his second attempt at third grade. Both irritability and poor school performance can be significant problems. But I strongly questioned his diagnosis.
Bipolar disorder is a serious and devastating disease characterized by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy or behavior. How did Ronnie get labeled with such a potentially debilitating illness and prescribed eight powerful medications within such a short time span? Unfortunately, his case isn’t unusual.
What kind of nation drugs children to conform to a profoundly child unfriendly society? Later, I think this was an incendiary statement. The only reason I am not moderating it in that people have commented on it I know some children are helped by medication. But far too many are being overdiagnosed and overmedicated.