1/2 The Children Given Psychiatric Labels Don’t Need Treatment

Mental health authorities once more find themselves alarmed over the number of children and adolescents stricken with the disease of growing up who are not in treatment. According to a report in Medical News, fully half of the children with a diagnosable mental illness are going untreated. I suspect the figures could be a little higher than that when you consider that many of these diagnosable childhood diseases are like modern art, this is to say that any behavior that offends a member of the grown up world can now be construed a disease. Got an imperfect kid, take him or her to a psychiatrist or a school counselor, and you can pin a disease diagnosis on him or her. Got a perfect kid, send her or him off to an Ivy League school before the matter requires any further scrutiny.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 to 2004 indicated that 13% of 8- to 15-year-olds had a recognized mental disorder, but only 51% of them had sought professional help, reported Kathleen Ries Merikangas, PhD, of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues

First, I’m thinking 13% is better than 10%. I know you don’t mean a serious mental disorder, that stays way down there, and as you don’t mean serious mental illness, what’s all the bother about? These kids are way up there with the unemployment and homeless rates in these depressed times. Given double digit unemployment rates, and homelessness rates approaching that figure, irritating kiddies are a very little matter.

They reported the following 12-month prevalence of disorders in the 8- to 15-year-old population:

• Attention deficit-hyperactivity: 8.6% (SE 0.7%)
• Mood disorder: 3.7% (SE 0.6%)
• Conduct disorder: 2.1% (SE 0.3%)
• Anxiety disorder: 0.7% (SE 0.3%)
• Panic disorder: 0.4% (SE 0.1%)
• Generalized anxiety: 0.3% (SE 0.1%)
• Eating disorder: 0.1% (SE 0.1%)

I think the most telling disorder of the bunch is conduct disorder. There was a time when conduct was not a disorder, it was a grade. Students had the choice of being good students or bad students, and being a bad student didn’t mean you had a ‘sick’ student on your hands. It could all be taken care of in special education classes. Kotter had his Sweathogs, for instance.

Merikangas and colleagues also reported the prevalence of mental health services usage within the previous year among those with mental disorders:

• Any disorder: 50.6% (SE 3.4%)
• ADHD: 47.7% (SE 4.4%)
• Conduct disorder: 46.4% (SE 8.0%)
• Mood disorders: 43.8% (SE 6.0%)
• Anxiety disorders: 32.2% (SE 14.3%)

Do you really think that students who cause disorder in the classroom are handled any better by the school psychiatrist than by the school dean? I don’t know. I imagine it depends on what sort of a dean you have. And, with regard to the untreated, if it isn’t broken, why fix it? They should, after all, be adult in a few years time. Most children are cured of the struggles involved in their growing up by becoming adult.