Frontline’s story on the excessive medication of children

A recent PBS Frontline program described the excessive use of medications such as Risperdal and other so-called atypical antipsychotics with elementary school-age children. The program was notable for its evasion of the most important question in mental health today. 

One might say that any and all psychiatric medicating of anyone, including children, is excessive. But to take this position is to miss the essential point: the unwanted behavior of children (and teens and adults) has nothing to do with illness of any kind. Whether medications ”work” (or do not work), or whether they are being used excessively, diverts our attention from the more important question: What is there in the context within which the child is living his/her life that might account for the distressing behavior?

The re-contextualizing of their child’s behavior is something that families shy away from. It is potentially embarrassing, and a person (like myself) who raises the issue is often accused of blaming or stigmatizing family menbers, or dredging up the past. 

True! I’m guilty! Not of blaming or dredging up the past, but of pleading with families to see how their own unwitting and unintentional actions have contributed to what is in reality a family problem, not an illness that their child has.

It is clear to me that the producers of Frontline are not yet ready to grapple with that issue.


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