Afterword: This diary is meant to be provocative. I am so pleased by all the excellent comments and interactions between commenters. If America were a family friendly society, I doubt so many children would be diagnosed with serious mental illness and prescribed psychiatric medication. I am not questioning that some children's lives are turned around by the right dose of the right meds, carefully supervised by psychiatrists and parents who are true partners..
I am the mother of 4 daughters; the grandma of five grandkids, 5 and under; the big sister of 5 younger brothers; the aunt of 11; the great aunt of 8; the oldest of 45 first cousins. I am a psychiatric social worker and children's and young adult librarian. As a therapist I have worked with clients with serious mental illness. I have been involved with many hundreds of kids for all my 66 years.
I am also a manic depressive, diagnosed at age 40 in 1985. My life was better before diagnosis and treatment although I have taken meds for 26 years. Too often psychiatrist seem to want to drug away the radical feminist pacifist I have always been, who doesn't value obedience and always questions authority. In my 20s I edited world famous psychiatrist, occasionally with scissors (early 70s cut and paste). They were soul healers, not drug pushers. It took ten years to find a medication that helped more than it hurt. I read about it on the Internet and shopped for a psychiatrist that would partner with me to experiment. This year, I might have found one that actually worked at the smallest possible dose.
Obviously, I am not denying a role for medication; I have swallowed my pills all this time.I am not denying a role for medication. I am not talking about ADHD drugs like ritalin. However, childhood bipolar disorder has only been discovered in the last 15 years, mostly in America. Many discovers have close ties to Big Pharm. Until 1995 conventional psychiatric wisdom was that bipolar disorder could only be diagnosed in the late teens. There is no conclusive study that proves childhood bipolar disorder leads to adult bipolar disorder.
Psychiatrists still debate whether it exists. I attended the 2010 meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists. Foreign psychiatrists were not true believers. Some reacted as if a portal had opened over the Atlantic, and they had fallen into a demon dimension with another species of children. "What is a bipolar child?" one Dutch psychiatrist ask.ed In 30 years of practice, I never met one."
I believe you should not decide to drug your kids before you take the meds for at least a month, preferably before you take the bar exam or your medical specialist certification exam. Undoubtedly you will be better behaved, but that won't help if you are a zombie. Too often kids are being given anti-psychotics for behavior problems, anti-psychotics not tested with children. When I have taken them, my intellect and education have not been able to withstand their cognitive effects. Giving such drugs to developing young minds until all alternative have been exhausted seems like malpractice.
Until all the usual mood stabilizers went generic, anti-psychotics were intended to treat schizophrenics and hospitalized manics. There is a shameful record of using them on Alzheimer's sufferers. As recently as the 2004 American Psychiatric Meeting in NY, drug reps were marketing bestsellers such as abilify and seroquel for those patients. Now they are being heavily advertised for depression and bipolar disorder as maintenance drugs. The newer atypical anti-psychotics are heavily implicated in causing weight gain and sudden onset diabetes.
When my kids were young, 25-30 years ago, even in therapy-obsessed Manhattan, preschool kids weren't seeing psychiatrists, weren't taking psychiatric medications, so I am skeptical about this epidemic of very young children with serious problems requiring psychiatric drugs. If our kids were having problems in nursery school, we might decide to wait another year and find a better school.
What is going wrong with the way we are raising children? Why do we look in children's brains for the answers to be found in social reform? Who is blowing the whistle? Who is questioning the wisdom of babies and toddlers being cared for by strangers 50 hours a week?Who is crusading for a shorter work week and greatly increased parental leaves? Who is is dedicated to make caring for preschoolers a viable career path for college graduates, comparable to teaching in salary and benefits?
Who is comparing our rate of childhood mental illness with rates in the rest of the Western world? Who is outraged about preschoolers taking multiple psychiatric drugs that have never been tested on children? Who is fighting to outlaw drugs ads in magazines and on TV? Why are we teaching our kids that drugs are the solution to every problem? Thirty years ago we felt like bad parents if we let our kids have caffeine.
The aggressive drug treatment of mental illness in the last 30 years hasn't been a success story. When yesterday's wonder drug becomes generic, its ineffectiveness is suddenly discovered and its dangerous side effects are no longer covered up. Today's expensive wonder drug will supposedly save your life after being tested for a shockingly short time on shockingly few people who don't share your diagnoses.
Young children are so unformed, so in process. This year's four year old can seem like a different creature than last year's three year old. The shy 5 year old might be the president of her senior class. Fortunately I was diagnosed after my 4 girls were born. At times I was posit each was bipolar. They turned out splendidly.
These diagnoses disorder imply lifelong, incurable brain disorders for which there are no medical tests, no verifiable proof of their existence. Why would you accept that your young child has a permanently broken brain? I have experienced tremendous discrimination. and lost most of my self-confidence.
Does your child need more relaxed time with his overscheduled parents rather than tense sessions with experts comfortable with diagnosing him after a few testing sessions? Does she need a new teacher or a new school? I temporary home schooling even a remote possibility? Why not wait until the picture becomes clearer? We are not dealing with meningitis or childhood leukemia.
When I hear a 10 year old rattle off all his psychiatric labels, it breaks my heart and makes me want to man the barricades. My blog is one such barricade. I share my parenting experiences to show the broard range of behavior and misbehavior evidences by my 4 undiagnosed darlings who are successful adults, with excellent jobs, happy marriages, and beautiful children.