Sometimes I think the whole world is crazy.
Last week was one of them.
PBS repeated its disturbing documentary, The Medicated Child, about six million American children taking psychiatric drugs that have never been tested on children.
Russian roulette, one expert called it.
The next morning, front-page headlines reported a new University of Manitoba study suggesting a rise in teenage suicides may be linked to a health warning alerting doctors to the potential risks of prescribing antidepressants to children and adolescents.
Did this warning stop them from taking their meds and seeing their doctors for treatment for depression? Not clear.
Was this treatment psychotherapy? Who knows?
The results were vague and raised more questions than answers.
I'm no expert, but I do know that all psychiatric drugs, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, affect people differently.
The only way to know is by trying them. Like guinea pigs.
These days, it's not uncommon for children to be prescribed cocktails of drugs meant for adults.
Drugs that affect children differently than adults.
Drugs interacting with drugs on young, developing brains.
One more thing. This is going to sound heretical. The medical establishment isnt going to like it. Or the drug companies. But it's true.
Since the 1970s, psychiatrists have asserted that mental illnesses are caused by neurological dysfunctioning chemical imbalances in the brain treatable by drugs that target neuroreceptors.
This widely held assumption has not yet been proven. Its still theory.
And it excludes context.
Why would parents hand over responsibility for their children's emotional well-being to doctors who seem to have only one tool in their tool box?
This is terribly complex. Today's depressed, often sleep-deprived teens can be emotionally traumatized. Divorcing parents. School issues. Peer pressures. Hopscotching hormones. Social problems. Uncertainty about the future.
Adolescence has never been a picnic.
What about environmental toxins, excessive television and other technologies, modern agricultural effects on the contents of food nutrients.
There's also a terrible inequity in Canada's healthcare system.
You need a medical doctor to give you a diagnosis to get coverage for an emotional problem.
Your healthy-but-unhappy child could use some good old fashioned talking therapy. Support. Peer support. Help that takes into account all the context most psychiatrists ignore.
Where to find it? All you hit are endless waiting lists.
Psychologists, social workers, trained psychotherapists fit the bill, but they aren't covered by provincial health insurance.
Meanwhile, your kid is really worrying you, so off you trot to your GP.
Before you know it, your healthy-but-unhappy child is labeled with the diagnosis du jour, bipolar disorder, and handed a prescription. Fast and easy.
There are other approaches.
Like Parents for Youth.
In 2001, my husband and I were settling into our new marriage with his 13-year-old daughter.
Dr. Bob suggested we contact child psychiatrist Harvey Armstrong who works with parents of difficult children.
Armstrong facilitates groups of parents who learn from each others experiences how to parent more effectively.
Sometimes its tough, but it works.
After a year of weekly 90-minute sessions with ten other parents, we left our group with pocketsful of skills and strategies.
Today we have a much happier, harmonious household, and a fantastic kid.