Look for more of my writing on the mental health system over at Substack. You can subscribe for free!
Will Hall is offering a donation based online event on Sunday, May 30, 4pm MST about coming off of psych meds. Often health care providers are not trained in how to help people taper off psychiatric medications, and tapering too fast or stopping cold turkey can result in withdrawal effects that can range from mild to almost incapacitating. To find out more about Will Hall, see this link. To find out more about the free online event, click here.
In this study, which was published Nov 13, 2020 on the CDC website, it was found that ER visits for mental health issues increased 24% in children ages 5–11 and 31% in those ages 12–17 compared to the same time period in 2019. Although we may disagree on how to deal with the spread of SARS-Cov-2, I hope we can all agree that this is very alarming.
Unfortunately, many of these encounters with the system will result in children being put on psychiatric medications that have serious side effects. Giving a child a pill is like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound that is being caused by the continued elimination of in person education. It is coming at the expense of our children's learning as well as their mental and emotional well being. Young people need in person interaction with their peers, as do people of any age, but for them it is particularly crucial, since their brains are developing and changing rapidly until their mid-20's.
Psychiatric medications essentially cause a biochemical imbalance in the body, including the brain. Despite what you have heard, there is no biochemical imbalance associated with any mental health diagnosis. Not a one, not even with schizophrenia. But drugs do cause biochemical imbalances and brain changes. For some people, this seems to improve how they feel. Eventually, though, because the body is always trying to get back to homeostasis, the brain will adapt such that it seems the drug is no longer "working," which will result in the dosage of the drug being increased or a new drug being added to the regimen.
I am for freedom of choice, but I believe psychiatric medication should only be used as a last resort, and only with fully informed consent of the person taking it. Sadly, a child cannot give informed consent, and they are dependent upon their parents to be looking out for their best interests. Unfortunately,parents are often not fully informed about the risks of psychiatric medications and the more effective/less dangerous alternatives to pills.
In the first month of the pandemic, there was a 21% increase in new prescriptions for antidepressants, anxiolytics and sleep medications. 78% of these prescriptions were for patients receiving these drugs for the first time. This situation is like a vise, squeezing people from both sides. Unfortunately, all these medications have serious side effects and are no substitute for human interaction, empathy, or psychotherapy, which can actually heal the problem. The problem isn't a "chemical imbalance." The problem is trauma. Our political systems create more of it. The disparities between groups of people increase, and we are being pitted one against another as corporations and the elite profit, while the 99% suffer. This is trauma. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/928901
It seems like every few weeks we are hearing about another study that "proves" that genetics cause "mental illness," the genes for schizophrenia, or depression, or alcoholism have been found in another closely related family tree or cultural group. If you've ever had any doubts about the veracity of these claims (I sure have), then check out the work of psychologist Jay Joseph. He's written a number of books on the fallacies inherent in research done on twins, and genetic research in general. You'll never look at genetic studies the same way after reading his work. He also has a blog on the Mad in America website.
This is a "consumer" initiated effort to educate people about psychiatric medication, especially the things your health care provider may not tell you or even know themselves. I believe it is wise to educate yourself about medication and its pros and cons, just as it is with anything else you are going to put into your body or become involved with (and the includes psychotherapy)! Check out The Inner Compass Initiative!
Cell phones, Netflix, Snapchat... friends or foes? My daughter's pediatric dentist said that the screen she has above her treatment chair is the best anesthetic she has for children! Mesmerized by the images, they don't notice or feel a thing! Good when you have a drill in your mouth, but not necessarily how we want our children to be when we are trying to interact with them!
My best advice... set guidelines for your child's usage BEFORE you purchase the device, and talk often about how things are going. Also, be aware of what you are modeling for your child in terms of your own use of digital media. I know all this takes time and energy, of which many of us feel we have precious little of, but remember that old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Here are a few websites that can give you some ideas about how to handle your child's first cell phone.
Laura Markham, PhD from Aha Parenting
Bosco-an app that helps you keep track
Years ago I read Robert Whitaker's "Anatomy of an Epidemic." Years before that, in graduate school, I read Peter Breggin's "Toxic Psychiatry," and I've read many books in between. I started educating myself about the problems and dangers of psychiatric medication, because I noticed that the patients I saw on them not only were not getting better, but some of them were getting worse, despite being given more drugs and higher dosages. I saw this in outpatient settings, day treatment programs, and in a state mental hospital. Often I saw psychotherapy helped people when years of being on drugs had not. Now in private practice, sometimes I see a person who is on so much medication that they can't feel and can't think--and therefore, they can't benefit from psychotherapy, because in order to change you have to be aware. I've particularly seen the damage antipsychotics or neuroleptics can do. Check out this new article by Robert Whitaker who cites a recently published peer reviewed research study on the effectiveness of these drugs https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/12/timberrr-psychiatrys-evidence-base-for-antipsychotics-comes-crashing-to-the-ground/
We are so lucky to have Grace Jackson, MD, practicing in nearby Cottonwood, Arizona! She is a leading authority on the negative effects of psychiatric medications, and has written two books, "Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs, a Guide for Informed Consent" and "Drug-Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime."
I had known of Dr. Jackson because we were both members of The International Society For Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry. A few years ago, I was reading a report on a patient who had been referred to me and was being discharged from Verde Valley Medical Center. The psychiatrist who wrote the report was discussing possible drug interactions and over medication issues that could be negatively affecting the patient. I thought, "Wow, who wrote this report? I need to meet this person!" and lo and behold, it was Dr. Jackson!
At my request, she spoke about her work on drug induced dementia at the Granite Mountain Psychological Society meeting in November 2015. The data is absolutely chilling--being on any psychiatric drug results in an increased likelihood of developing dementia, and this risk increases with the longer one is on the drug, and of course, the dosage. If this raises concerns for you, you can find out more about Dr. Jackson here and make an appointment to go see her. She does take some insurance plans, which makes her services more affordable. She and I have worked together to help patients reduce their reliance on psychiatric medication, and I would be happy to talk about this possibility with you.
Digital media! Are you addicted to it? Are your children? Facebook, smart phones, Instagram--it is all alluring and mesmerizing at the same time. Here's an article about the negative effects of this technology, especially on children. What do you think about going on a digital media holiday? Have you tried it? If so, what were the results?
Sarah Edmonds, PhD is a licensed psychologist, a mom, an activist, and a lover of dance.