Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This makes me ANGRY.

This makes me VERY ANGRY.

I 'm not surprised that nobody listened (or acted) to the advice of the social worker - that happens all too frequently in my experience. In most mental health circles the one with the M.D. behind their name gets to make all the decisions. According to the news story, the social worker who had been working with this child since birth, told the psychiatrist that the child's behavior was "typical" and recommended that she did not need medication. (Never mind that the therapist spends, on average, an hour a week with a client - while the psychiatrist sees them for about 20 min every couple months...)

I'm not even outraged that DSS didn't do more to intervene when it was reported by the social worker that the mother had mental health issues and the child seemed over medicated. Again, most CPS investigators have bachelor degrees - at most, masters degrees - and are completely "out ranked" by a psychiatrist.

I am ANGRY that we have gotten to the place where children as young as 2 years old are being diagnosed with SEVERE mental illnesses and that often the first (and sometimes only) intervention is medication. Medication that is NOT approved for use in children - much less toddlers!

I am ANGRY that so many parents are not being educated about normal developmental behavior. They are not being given appropriate resources in order to learn positive parenting strategies. You need to look no further than SuperNanny to see this isn't just a problem with low income parents or those with their own mental health issues. Parents in general are lacking support - and its the children who are suffering!

I am ANGRY that parents are so used to the idea that "doctor know best" that they do not question the use of these medications on their children. Even though the accusation in this case is that the parents "murdered" their child through a lethal overdose of her medication, the fact is that those parents were allowed to believe that they were justified in their feelings about their child.They reported that she was hyper active, didn't sleep at night, and was aggressive. And instead of hearing that it is typical two year old behavior, they were told that their child was mentally ill and were given medication!

I am ANGRY that this happens all too frequently. Not that children die, though that happens all too frequently as well, but I'm angry that very young children are prescribed strong psychotropic medications prior to attempting any other therapeutic/behavioral/etc approach. When I worked at the CMHC I saw many, many children being diagnosed with serious mental illness after a one hour assessment. I saw many, many children under the age of 5 being prescribed medication before their parents had truly attempted any other alternative. I saw these same children being prescribed new medications over and over again - while there was still no other courses of treatment being insisted upon by their doctors. All of this, without the input or recommendations of their therapists.

This is irresponsible! Children's abilities, personalities, and brains are still forming during these years! They can still be guided to do things differently. They can be molded to act and react more positively And they can be taught to cope with many difficult impulses and feelings.

Please don't get me wrong - I'm not opposed to all medication. I'm not opposed to children being diagnosed with mental illnesses. I am HIGHLY opposed to young children being diagnosed and medicated before someone works with the entire family for a substantial amount of time to sort out where the child's behavior is originating.

Please, if you have a child who is acting out, having difficulty functioning, or has a personal/family history of mental illness - seek help for your entire family. Individual treatment will only go so far to helping your child function at a higher level. A child with a mental health issue will affect and BE AFFECTED by every member of the family.

It is not a sign of bad parenting if your child is having problems - it is not always a sign of mental illness either.

Being a child isn't easy.

Being a parent isn't easy.

There is hope and help out there.

But please, know that doctors are not perfect - and neither are social workers or therapists. Find a provider that spends a decent amount of time getting to know you and your child before deciding on a course of treatment - medication or otherwise. Get second, third, and fourth opinions until you are comfortable that the provider has a full understanding of your family. Be open to looking at the situation in a different light and trying new (or retrying old) interventions with your child.

Don't settle.

Your family is worth it.


  1. I couldn't agree with this more. We waited a year with unbearable symptoms trying anything we and the many professionals we were working with could think of. Now that we are all convinced meds are a must in combination with therapy, I can't find a decent psychiatrist that will listen to every one else.

  2. The biggest problem in MOST situations (w/out the parent having their own mental illnesses) is the parents are looking for an "easy" solution to disobedient and/or active children. Many parents expect children to act well beyond their chronological years, and kids don't usually have the opportunity to just "be a kid".

    To complicate that, society has morphed as well into largely two-income household meaning what once was parent/child contact throughout the most of the day, is now 1-2 hours all while computing on the computer, doing laundry, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, etc. after a long and stressful day at work. Yes, our family falls under the two-income status, but we've learned to monopolize all available time and do the chores either together as a family (there's other things too that we do to make sure the kids get the most of our time).

    Putting our son on medication was the absolute MOST DIFFICULT decision to make. We mulled and prayed over it, and tried all possibilites out there.

  3. that is utterly ridiculous. BIPOLAR?? AT TWO YEARS OLD?? the dsm needs to put a minimum age on some of these heavy duty disorders.

    wow. just wow.

  4. you are a social worker, but you're not a psychiatrist and you are NOT a mother. i read your blog, but i would NEVER take advice from anyone who is not a parent herself. no perspective.

  5. is too bad you limit yourself by narrowly defining who you will take advice from. If someone has a good idea, it shouldn't matter where it comes from.

    If you disagree with what SW says, I'm sure she doesn't mind. But why imply that her opinion is somehow lacking and has NO value, simply because she is not yet a parent?

    There are parents out there who I would NEVER take advice from. And there are parents I respect and whose opinions I value. I also think that there are non-parents out there who have other perspectives that are still worth listening to.

    And please forgive me if I sound argumentative. I don't mean to be. Your comment just sounded like a slight to SW and I really like her! You have every right to express your opinion too and I think SW welcomes many different points of view.

    That article is so sad. I wonder what's happening with the other child at this point.


  6. Not to mention the label that follows these children the REST Of their lives!!! Thanks for Sharing!

  7. As a midterm assignment for my Family and Human Services class I had to read a blog and write a response about what I learned and any ah-ha moments I had while reading it. I have looked at several blogs now and this is the first blog I've found that actually surprised me and that I learned something from. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings and not being afraid to express what is wrong with the system. I love the layout of your blog and the voice in your writing. Keep it up!


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