We would all agree that child mental health is an important issue in society. Recent trends might lead us to believe that mental illness is on the rise, and that modern “science” is now properly labeling the countless “mental disorders” that children, adults and the elderly exhibit, but were previously misunderstood. For example, children are known to have higher energy and activity levels, shorter attention spans, difficulty learning, uncontrolled emotional tantrums, fears, and shyness. In the past we just let children grow up; but now these behaviors are labeled psychiatric disorders of one kind or another, and the children drugged to “fix” them. No one knows the long-range effects of the new powerful anti-psychotic drugs not even tested on children. But Ritalin and some of the earlier drugs have proven to stunt body and skull growth – directly countering a child’s health. Nevertheless, these and the newer more powerful drugs are freely prescribed to children younger than four and through the teenage years, as being necessary for child mental health.
Schools have become clinics to the degree that many teachers no longer improve teaching methods, but instead chalk up problem behavior to “disorders”, sending students to the school nurse for a meds prescription. Is this helping children and schools? Quite the contrary: medicated children zone out, literacy levels and test scores have dropped drastically, and tragic violence has plagued schools where students are on these powerful “meds”.
One writer for a prominent mental health magazine points out that the problem is not related to mental health at all, but to an ingenious million-dollar marketing campaign by drug manufacturers. After successfully lobbying for legalized drug advertising, and by paying psychiatrists to promote and prescribe their drugs, sales are literally skyrocketing. The public mistakes marketing for science, buys what is being sold, and government hands over billions of dollars annually for psychotropic drugs prescribed to foster children, the military, the elderly, and prisoners. Interestingly enough, a major pharmaceutical company producing one of the top-selling anti-psychotic drugs, has placed research and development under their Sales and Marketing division. Accordingly, drug studies are now paid for by the pharmaceutical industry itself, which profits from bringing them to market. Science is obviously being compromised, because investigations discover skewed test results covering up harmful results, and miracles being claimed about drugs that worked no better than sugar pills. But then again what would one expect from a commercial marketing department?
Another recent marketing ploy pretending to be science is adult and child mental health screening. One aspect of this is a Mood Disorders Questionnaires used to search out those with the manic-depressive illness called “Bipolar Disorder”. The questionnaire, composed of phrases that capture a greater percentage of the population than it should, generates a large number of false “positives”. Add to that a greatly expanded definition of “bipolar”, and we have a lot of children, teens and adults needlessly prescribed drugs with dangerous, often deadly side effects.
“Bipolar Disorder” was earlier termed “manic-depressive”, meaning extremely high and low moods in a person without regard to their environment. The new “Bipolar II” category, however, has much broader boundaries, to cover a wider “spectrum” of behaviors. Now, any extreme emotions in a person can be interpreted to be a greater or lesser degree of this illness. An individual who grieves more than a few weeks after losing a loved one, whether to illness, war or divorce, would be “bipolar”. High self esteem, regardless of achievement, job promotion, a new love, or just belief in oneself, would fall into this category. Bipolar Disorder “requires” powerful anti-psychotic drugs with heavy side effects. Though children have rarely if ever been found to have the disease, these broader definitions are being applied to them, and dangerously high doses of “meds” prescribed, especially in foster and youth homes, where no caring parents can intervene. Though child mental health may be plummeting, commercial drug profits are soaring.
Thankfully, good science upon which we can depend has revealed that human beings quite normally have mood changes in response to dozens of factors in their bodies and environments. The mere fact of eating too many carbohydrates releases the major hormone insulin, too much protein raises adrenaline, another major hormone. Stimulants such as coffee or alcohol, mental stress, can also raise adrenaline, causing the “fight or flight” response – in other words anger or fear. Monthly and late-life female hormone fluctuations cause mood changes. But none of these are brain disorders; they are normal responses to life changes, whether physical, familial, financial, or otherwise. To confuse emotional response with mental illness, and treat them with drugs, does not and will not preserve adult or child mental health. It will obscure true causes by adding more to the mix.
This new practice of subduing emotional responses with powerful drugs can actually cause drug-induced mental illness. We have seen medicated children, teens and adults dramatize psychotic behavior that is just that: crazed behavior caused by drugs. Another side to the coin, neither side winning, is that subduing normal mental and emotional responses can endanger a person. The soldier at war on a battlefield, if his normal “fight or flight” response is subdued by meds, may not survive the situation. This is not to mention that war is an extreme environmental disorder, which itself should be corrected, not the soldier. Fixing the wrong thing is perhaps the crux of the problem. Children from abusive, neglectful homes respond appropriately by being upset and unhappy. They are put into foster homes, but now are without family or friend. State psychiatrists pronounce any evident upset to be a list of disorders requiring drugs, all in the name of child mental health. But investigations by media and government have recently proven them wrong — children fare much better when they are off, not on these medications. The forgotten “Say No To Drugs” motto would be wise to follow.
Labeling normal emotional responses as “disorders” opens the door to viewing our own and others’ emotional behavior as mentally ill, rather than as simply human. This in turn justifies becoming a drug-dependent society run by a medical monopoly. By accepting the diagnostic manual of mental disorders as our bible, society would necessarily become more invested in mental illness, than mental health.