Forget Supernanny. If you have an out-of-control kid, your offspring could be suffering from the latest craze in childhood psychiatric disorders: Child bipolar. In the US, more than 1 million kids are being treated for child bipolar and the number is rising, despite the fact hardly anyone knows how to correctly diagnose it and that the prescribed medications of unruly mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics have not been tested on children.
The definition of bipolar is already on shaky ground ... and no wonder. Doctors can say a child is bipolar if she or he suffers rapid mood swings, tantrums and explosive irritability. Yet the stories presented in the film are terrifying and mesmerizing in turn, in particular the heartbreaking tales of the children. Little Jacob was considered a normal boy until he turned three and his teachers started complaining that he had no "impulse control" (Hello… He is three). At four, he was diagnosed as ADHD and placed on several drugs. By the time he was 10, little Jacob was daily ingesting eight different pills and potions and his diagnosis was "upgraded" to bipolar. He is now 16, suffers with an unfortunate neck-roll tick - one of the many side effects of such drugs - and is looking down the barrel of a lifetime on daily medicines.
In one scene a doctor gives advice to his 12-year-old bipolar patient who had been suffering "mood swings" due to the fact her dad had just been posted to Iraq. "There is no scientific answer here about what to do for you," he tells her. "So I think we should try to go up a little on the medicines. Does that sound like a plan?" This is a tragedy of sick kids, desperate parents and doctors on a bender of over-diagnosis and over-medicating.
The statistics of the number of children that are being medicated for psychiatric disorders are alarming. Increasingly, this is the conventional solution of choice for children with behavioral problems. The program barely mentioned alternative approaches which was what was so disturbing to me. Why do you think Americans medicate more than other countries? Is it the marketing by drug companies, or the way our health care system is set up? Why is there not a third party reporting agency for adverse drug effects, similar to vaccine reporting? Everyone I know who has had a bad reaction has just changed medicine. Neither the pediatrician nor the parents reported it anywhere.
I was shocked and horrified and how these kids, who were normal, bright children who were merely rambunctious were given medication that has destroyed their lives. From neurological disorders, to dead personalities, I weep for them and how today there is an entire generation of parents with no clue about how to parent, and kids who have been medicated in order to make up for that lack. I was left wondering how much a parent could do in advance of such problems arising. In essence, I'm sure there are situations where early intervention would have zero effect, but I'm wondering if (like autism) there would be situations where a child who has a pre-disposition towards a condition (like ADHD) might be able to be prevented from developing (entirely or partially) a condition if a parent does certain things ... like developing good conflict management and coping mechanisms in kids, etc.
Yes I believe there are children who are prematurely medicated and in some cases it is nothing more than a lack of discipline or the child is not being challenged or the child is held to standards appropriate for adults or there is little quality time being spent between parents and child. In this fast paced world we need to make a special effort to slow down and enjoy our children and allow them the freedom to be children. More so, I agree that too many medications (especially several mixed together) is a really bad idea for children, unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and there is an official diagnosis for their disorders. Quick “fixes” are never wise. Some medications have chemicals that actually inhibit the growing brain from producing the necessary chemicals needed to make it stable. The brain is made ‘lazy’ because these chemicals are introduced by pill into the bloodstream for long periods of time, or worse, for a short period, only to be changed to a new medication which it has to again adjust to, all the while, creating a new disability in that it is getting ‘lazy’, in not needing to produce these same chemicals on its own. Then when someone looks to be removed from meds years later, the brain has basically atrophied in the areas of certain chemical production, and you find your now adult child truly does require medications, where it was supposed to just have helped them when they were little. Be careful. Be wise in selection.