Forgive me if this isn’t completely gelled. It’s a rant.
Liberals, Conservatives, I’m talking to you. Who do you think you are? Where do you get off judging those of us who are medicated or choose to medicate our kids? We live in a time of horrors and a time of miracles. And you begrudge us the miracles? Because it makes you uncomfortable on some level you haven’t totally hashed out, you blather on about, “People who just want to take a pill and feel better.” Well, yeah… Yeah they do. Here’s some news:
In the great state of Minnesota, as of 2005 the second highest cause of death among teens age 15 to 19 was suicide. http://www.health.state.mn.us/youth/bbb/status.html
“Following a decline of more than 28 percent, the suicide rate for 10- to-24-year-olds increased by 8 percent, the largest single-year rise in 15 years, according to a report just released in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). ” http://www.sciencedaily.com, September 2007. ( The italics is mine.)
Guess what that coincides with? The decline coincides with the increased use of antidepressants in kids between 10 and 24 years old. Guess what the spike coincides with? Hmm.. Could it be it coincides with lots of media hype about the increased risk of suicidal thoughts in a few kids who were depressed and on medication? A jump that caused parents and doctors to second guess themselves and not medicate depressed kids, even though the evidence pointed to lives being saved? Yes it could. And it does.
I’m not a doctor, but I know that kids killing themselves is lots sexier than kids popping their meds and feeling better. Sex and fear sell, they’re what people remember. Right now we know what works best for depressed people, kids and adults. It’s cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants and good self-care (diet, sleep, exercise). It works. Not always, but for the first time in history we can help people with mental health problems, whose relatives a generation before couldn’t get better. This is true for lots of mental health issues that have just been a morass until now. It’s fabulous news. But we hear almost nothing about it.
So before you start talking about back in the day when kids didn’t need all these fancy medications, do a little homework; look around you. I’ve known wonderful, beautiful young people who killed themselves before psychiatry and psychology had any consistently effective tools at its disposal. I have people in my family who are still paying the price for the untreated mental illness that was evident in their childhood. Live with one of these people, and then come back to me and say there’s something wrong with a pill that can make them feel better. Watch what mental illness does to a family and tell me why medicating the sick is the wrong thing to do.
It’s not that I’m gung-ho for any and all medical interventions. Medicating personality in childhood makes me a little uncomfortable. The whole ADHD thing for kids falls into that category for me. I think any diagnosis that encompasses so many symptoms (many of them direct opposites of each other) is casting a net too wide to be really medically valid. It’s an area I have had to think long and hard about, because every school we’ve had our kids in has suggested (sometimes in a veiled way, sometimes not so much) we should medicate our kids for being wiggly, spacey, disorganized or unfocused. Our kids weren’t unhappy, they weren’t sick; they just didn’t fit the school model very well. They were hard to manage.
I remember a little girl who used to play with my son. They were in the same class in 2nd grade. She was having trouble learning to read (as was my boy). Her parents switched schools for third grade, then tried one of the ADD drugs. Last I checked she was reading at grade-level, doing well. But another neighbor asked why I supposed that little girl stopped skipping to and from school. It made us both sad to think it was the Ritalin (or Dexedrine or whatever).
I chose to do different things for my kids when they struggled in school. But I surely don’t judge that family for the decision they made. The system? Maybe.