Judith Warner Writes About Her Book

She talks, she walks, and now we have her side of the story. Judith Warner has posted an article, “We’ve Got Issues”: The Myth of The Overmedicated Child, on her book of the same title in The Huffington Post.

I learned, too, as I started digging for numbers, that the statistics on mental disorder prevalence and the use of psychotropic meds didn’t bear out the overmedication story: Five to 20 percent of kids in our country are believed to have mental health disorders, I discovered (the five percent being those with “extreme functional impairment,” according to U.S. government statistics, the 20 percent being those with “at least minimum impairment.) Five percent of kids take psychotropic medication.

1/5 is a lotta fucked up kids, and 5% serious fuck ups. Okay, we’re talking degree of fuck up here, but this rate rivals the rate of adult ‘mental disorder’, and most of the adults had time to develop. I think we call it growing up, or maturing before you fuck up. Very disturbing. If the child rate is so high, I see a great potential for the adult rate to rise. Oh, but it has risen. Just take a look at the 40-fold rise in the bipolar rate that occurred after Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman said all these ADHD babies were actually early onset bipolar disorder babies. Are we talking misdiagnosis here, or something a little bit more sinister? We could have misdiagnosed healthy behavior diseased behavior rather than just come up with another disease. If not so seriously fucked up adolescents can be mistaken for seriously fucked up adolescents, I think that there is a great potential for some unfucked up adolescents getting mixed up in the brackets with the fucked up ones. Likewise, if unfucked up adolescents can get mixed up with fucked up adolescents, maybe some of the fucked up adolescents can slip out of the fucked up category.

When, at one time, the labels of childhood schizophrenia and childhood bipolar disorder were virtually non-existent, a 5-20% childhood mental illness rate is overdiagnosis. Where you have this diagnosis rate, previously undiagnosed, that is going to mean overmedication on top of it.

The point I’m trying to make here is that somebody, or some bodies, does the fucking up.

“Brave new world” is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary not as the drug-hazed dystopia of Aldous Huxley’s imagining, but as “A world or realm of radically transformed existence, especially one in which technological progress has both positive and negative results.” The description perfectly matches our time. More is known than ever before about children’s mental health issues. More and better treatments exist (including treatments, of course, that don’t involve medication). More children are being identified and helped than at any other time in history. And yet science has advanced faster than our ability to use it well. Relatively few children have access to the best possible care. Most of those who need mental health services don’t get any care at all. Too much power and influence has been given to drug makers, rendering the science the public relies upon for information highly unreliable. Too much stigma remains. We tend to believe that, today, we have moved beyond the age-old prejudices against people with mental illness. But, in fact, that prejudice is alive and well in our time and has a new and socially acceptable face: it expresses itself in the eye-rolling laments about “pushy parents” and “drugged-up kids.”

I don’t care how the American Heritage Dictionary defines ‘brave new world’. The expression was lifted to good purpose by Aldous Huxley from Willliam Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a title for his polemical novel. Ronald Reagan, and other political goons, may have since twisted the expression to suit their own agendas. I think there is a good chance, as is so often the case, Judith Warner may be mistaking some of the negative results she finds for positive results, and vice versa. I wouldn’t exonerate any guilty party, in other words, because it made the guilty party feel better about themselves. Innocence was once a term we used to describe the young. The young were characterized as innocent, at least in so far as the indiscretions of their elders were concerned. I’m not the person, unlike Judith Warner, to approve of the wholesale licensing of such indiscretions. When effective mental health recovery takes place the mental illness excuse becomes less viable. Likewise, when people admit their part in the predicaments other people find themselves in, situational change becomes more possible. I still think personal responsibility and accountability are virtuous traits to be desired and fostered, and I don’t think they should be evaded.

Pardon me, if I over indulged my use of the F word a wee little bit, but some days are like that.

Related post:

The Kind Of Histories We Can Do Without

2 Responses

  1. A big problem, I think, is that some people assume their solutions work for everybody and are hell bent in converting others to their way of thinking. Their answers might be appropriate for some but highly inappropriate for others. This is a problem because BOTH sides– the pro-druggers and the anti-druggers– have the same attitude and there’s no give and take or any lee way for recognizing people’s differences.

    • I don’t see the divisions as being so much between pro-drugger and anti-drugger as I see them being between pro-choice and anti-choice. When there are a wide array of treatment options, both the person who feels he or she needs a drug, and the person who feels he or she needs no drug, have their way. One law for the lion and the ox is tyranny, or so wrote the English poet William Blake many, many years ago.

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