Let’s not discipline our children, let’s label them “mentally ill” instead

Dr. Thomas Insel, the present malevolent imp in charge of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is at it again. This time the story is in Science Daily. There is an article in that online news source bearing the heading, Unruly Kids May Have a Mental Disorder.

I would qualify this heading with the addition of the word not.

When children behave badly, it’s easy to blame their parents. Sometimes, however, such behavior may be due to a mental disorder. Mental illnesses are the No. 1 cause of medical disability in youths ages 15 and older in the United States and Canada, according to the World Health Organization.

Apparently it’s a lot easier to blame children for childish behavior than it is to blame parents for possessing few or inadequate parenting skills.

After this introduction it’s mostly a matter of Dr. Insel mouthing off about how we have to catch these “mental disorders” early.

The same NIMH that Dr. Insel is the director of finds that ½ of the people labeled with lifetime “mental illness” were labeled by the time they were 14 years old.

One reason we haven’t made greater progress helping people recover from mental disorders is that we get on the scene too late,” said Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the featured speaker at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Presidential Plenary during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

I don’t think he is trying to tell us here that after the age of 14 it is too late for a person to recover his or her wits. So what is he trying to say?

In addition to serving as director of the NIMH, Dr. Insel is acting director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, a new arm of the National Institutes of Health that aims to accelerate the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.

Now we know.

Sometimes, in my view, misbehavior is just misbehavior. At other times, my view again, adult misbehavior can be seen in the pathologising of children. This is medicalization that, as you can see, may lead to a medicalized adulthood for the child so labeled.

Given an epidemic increase in “mental illness” labeling, you wouldn’t expect a dramatic decline in “mental illness” label rates anytime soon. You have even less reason to expect a decline with the likes of Dr. Insel pursuing easier ways to label childhood a certifiable “mental illness”.

Why the label? Drug companies need to make their profit quotas, and thanks to folks like Dr. Insel, they now have the psychiatrist puppets to help them do so.

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3 Responses

  1. It also allows the parents to collect extra welfare checks.

    This passage from the article is very confusing:

    “The future of mental illness has to be at the point where we aren’t treating behavior separately from the rest of the person,” he said. “There needs to be full integration of behavior and medical concerns to ensure that we are able to care for the whole person and not just one system.”

    We still haven’t successfully resolved this mind vs. brain construct. If we had, we wouldn’t be calling it “mental”. And despite all claims to the contrary, no one can agree on what is on the border of what is acceptable behavior and what is aberrant.

    • Very true about the extra benefits, child mental disability is being used by poor families as a means of squeaking by. This is disturbing because the line between need and welfare fraud just hasn’t been firmly established. (As an example I would point to the Rebecca Reilly case in Massachusetts. She was a child poisoned to death by psychiatric drugs. The poor Reilly family had three children. Each of these children had a psychiatric label, and each of these children were taking psychiatric drugs for that label. These “disabled” children, to the parents, were an income supplement.)

      I don’t find the passage you refer to confusing. I do find it an attempt to sow confusion. Current theory has it that there are physical ailments associated with “mental illness” labels. The reality is that the over-prescription of psychiatric drugs is creating an epidemic of iatrogenic disease. This iatrogenic disease is physical, life-threatening, and life-shortening.

      I don’t think we can dispense with the Cartesian mind/body split without also dispensing with the notion of freedom of choice. Medical model psychiatry can only envision troubles as biological in nature, but we know troubles to be social in nature, and to treat them as medical conditions is simply an evasion of the facts.

      People with minds have wills. They can effect change. People without minds are determined purely by biology. Behavioral patterns were stamped on them before day one. Maybe someday somebody will pull the plug on their life-support systems. The basic philosophical psychological question I would ask is this: is one the master of one’s fate, or is one mastered by that fate (i.e. fated).

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