A Little Bit of Discretion, Please

Bad advice remains bad advice. Bad parents are gullible parents. Skepticism, given the amount of nonsense floating about in the world today, is a virtue.

Are you dealing with Turbulent teens or mental illness? this article in the The Gleaner from Jamaica would deceptively appear to ask. The article is actually selling “mental illness”. It suggests that any reader’s child could be “sick”. First thought. Read on, and damn your kid to a diminished life as a social and human failure in the mental sickness system if you want to do so, or think better of the matter, and go, “Wait a minute, maybe pegging my kid with a psychiatric label isn’t the best way to proceed at all”.

The article answers the question, “What should parents do?” with the following 7 alarmist answers that were probably dreamed up by a pharmaceutical company advertising team.

1. Be vigilant. 2. Seek professional help. 3. Do not be afraid to seek psychiatric care. 4. Do not shove it under the carpet. 5. There is danger in delay.

My response to this orange alert approach to problems in living is to reply, “Bullshit!” He or she who seeks to find “sickness” in a child will find it, and he or she who seeks to find “wellness” in a child will find that. This approach would hunt for “illness” rather than for “health”. To paraphrase gospel, “Let he or she who is without error attach the first label”.

The article supplies its own “mental illness” screening test of sorts. It gives 8 warning signs of “mental illness”. Now you’ve got a “mental illness” checklist if you are really desperate to have a child labeled, disposed of in the loony bin, locked away and abandoned. The message is clear. You, too, given this checklist, can bear a brood of loony birds.

1. Change in behavior. 2. Decline in school performance. 3. Drug use. 4. Poor self-care. 5. [Change in pattern of] Social interaction. 6. Communication is reduced. 7. Family breakdown. 8. Strange behavior.

I’ve got news for you. Each of the items on this checklist is a “symptom” of being a teenager. Adolescent rebellion is not a disease. Mom, Dad, get over it! Junior has to grow up. Mental health treatment or no mental health treatment, you shouldn’t try to hang onto your kid forever. Your child is merely testing his or her wings. Some parents will suffocate their kid rather than accept the simple truth that the kid needs more independence.

I could draw up a checklist for kids to use in diagnosing parents, too, but this is all about power, and we don’t give kids that kind of power until they are deemed old enough to use it. Unfortunately, some grown up kids never get old enough to use it wisely.