Mother tells inquest of Prozac concerns – Gareth Naughton for the Irish Examiner

Jake McGill-Lynch: Died from self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Gareth Naughton writes for the Irish Examiner:

The mother of a 14-year-old boy who took his own life told his inquest that she would never have agreed to him taking Prozac if she had known the side-effects.

Stephanie McGill-Lynch was giving evidence at the Dublin Coroner’s Court inquest into the death of Jake McGill-Lynch of Woodford Terrace, Clondalkin, who died at Tallaght Hospital on March 20 last year as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Jake was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in early 2012 and suffered from anxiety issues. He had been seeing a psychologist at Clondalkin Linn Dara Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and was referred to a psychiatrist in January 2013, over concerns his anxiety was increasing due to his upcoming Junior Certificate.

The inquest heard that consultant child psychiatrist Dr Maria Migone prescribed Prozac to help with the anxiety.

Ms McGill-Lynch said she and her husband were not informed that side-effects of Prozac include an increase in suicidal ideation. When they collected the prescription, no patient information leaflet was included. She said that in the US, Prozac carries a “black label” warning that it should be given to under-18s who have experienced anxiety problems only after all other avenues are exhausted…

To read the rest of this article, follow this link

Sarah Carey: ‘We must learn to listen better’

Sarah Carey writes for Independent.ie:
Today is the final day of the Green Ribbon Campaign, a month-long initiative to get people talking about their mental health.  The idea is that encouraging people, especially well-known people, to discuss their mental health helps to reduce the stigma attached to depression.

But sometimes I wonder how effective these campaigns really are. As far as I can tell, getting people to talk about depression is one thing. Getting someone to listen is another.

It’s easy to be sympathetic when someone you don’t know movingly describes their journey through the fog in the media. Truth be told, it’s a form of entertainment. It’s quite a different experience when a friend or family member tries to communicate those same feelings.

Sometimes that’s because depression manifests itself as anger. That telly star creates an image of the depressed person as someone weeping in bed, unable to function. Who wouldn’t want to give them a hug? The reality can be much more complex.

It’s harder to sympathise with someone who appears to be functioning well but is just in a really bad mood for a very long time. You might find they’re lashing out at you and, in your opinion, unfairly blaming you for their problems. If a relationship has been going wrong, it’s hard to tell the difference between a cry for help and an attack.

Or maybe you’re sympathetic for a while, but if you offer constructive advice that appears to have no effect or your friend won’t follow, frustration sets in. You’ve given them solutions; they won’t accept them. What more can you do? Or maybe you don’t understand why the person has turned to you rather than another, and it’s making life awkward.

A depressed person can start the conversation, but in a context of relationships vastly more complicated than sympathetic victim and heroic responders, it can go badly. So it’s important to get it right, and so easy to get wrong.

What we need are fewer instructions for those who need help and more for those they turn to.

CONVERSATION

The following are some of the replies a depressed person can expect to hear if they attempt the conversation. I should stress I’m not judging anyone who’s said these things, because some of them I’ve said myself.

1. Sure what have you got to be depressed about?

2. Snap out of it.

3. You’re not depressed. You just need something nice to happen to you.

4. Look around you: people sick and dying. You should be grateful for all you have.

5. It’s not my fault! Why are you blaming me?

6. I’ve got my own problems. I can’t cope with yours.

7. But what do you want me to do about it? You need to talk to X, not me.

8. Well whatever you do, don’t start taking pills. You don’t want to go down that road.

9. You just need to get a job/a girlfriend/go on holiday/a hobby.

10. Get some exercise. Some of these are well meaning.

Some ignorant. Some can sound patronising. So what can you say? Probably as little as possible. Listening and nodding can be enough.

Compassion is the imperative. Resisting the temptation to get defensive, impatient or offer advice is the challenge.

It’s not easy, which is why getting a professional involved is vital. Anyone can talk. Listening is the hard part.

 – Evening Herald

To Understand Depression, Understand Fun: Erika Forbes at TEDxGrandviewAve

Erika Forbes, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Affective Neuroscience and Developmental Psychopathology Lab. She completed her AB at Harvard University and her PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a clinical and developmental psychologist by training, and her work examines the neuroscience of mental health in young people. Specifically, she uses techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how unusual brain function in response to rewarding or pleasant stimuli is involved in the development of depression and substance use in adolescents.

Does stigma impact on help seeking behaviour? – Sarah Carr

Sarah Carr writes for The Mental Elf:

Just over a decade ago, a research study of rural mental health services in the north Midlands of the UK, recognised the importance of community mental health services and workers operating in a sensitive, non-stigmatising way (Crawford and Brown, 2002). The study made the connection between mental health stigma and service use. The authors described mental health stigma as traditionally being:

…seen as something that is the fault of the mental health system, and that involves an individual suffering social disapprobation and reduced life chances as a result of having been given a diagnostic label and an identity as a patient as a result of their contact with psychiatric institutions. (Crawford & Brown 2002 p229)

In a recent Mental Elf blog, Nikki Newhouse covered research from the Mental Health Commission of Canada that suggested that the stigma of mental illness is a barrier to care and help seeking. In the research, people with mental health problems said that at times ‘the stigma is worse than the illness’. Nikki mentioned the study summarised in this blog, which further explores the associations between the stigma of mental illness and people seeking help for their mental health problems. This study is the first systematic review of research looking at the impact of mental health stigma on help-seeking behaviour. The authors aimed to investigate the following questions:

This study set out to explore the relationship between stigma and help-seeking behaviour

  • What is the size and direction of the association between stigma and help-seeking?
  • To what extent is stigma identified as a barrier to help-seeking?
  • What processes underlie the relationship between stigma and help-seeking?
  • Are there population groups for which stigma disproportionately deters help-seeking?

They focused on help seeking from formal mental health services in the healthcare sector and from talking therapy services.

Methods

Five electronic databases (Medline, EMBASE, Sociological Abstracts, PsychInfo and CINAHL) were searched for studies and reviews on associations between stigma and help-seeking, dating from 1980 until 2011. There were no language restrictions in the searching. Following screening, 144 studies were included in the review. Three main types of literature were identified:

  1. Quantitative association studies, giving statistical data the relationship between measurements of stigma and help-seeking
  2. Quantitative barrier studies, giving data on the proportion of participants experiencing stigma-related barriers to help-seeking
  3. Qualitative process studies, giving analyses of interviews, focus groups or observational studies about stigma and help-seeking

Studies on structural stigma, such as lower funding and status accorded to mental health services or negative media stereotypes were not included.

Results

The majority of studies (69%) were undertaken in US or Canada, with 20 being conducted in Europe; 10 in Australia and New Zealand; 8 in Asia and 1 in South America. 21% of the studies were on students in higher education. The included studies were judged to be of methodologically mixed quality. Using key themes from the qualitative process studies, the authors constructed a conceptual model showing the relationship between the processes contributing to and counteracting the effects of stigma on help-seeking behaviour. The five major themes were:

  1. Dissonance between a person’s preferred self-identity or social identity and common stereotypes about mental health
  2. Anticipation/experience of negative consequences
  3. Need/preference for non-disclosure
  4. Stigma-related strategies used by individuals to enable help-seeking
  5. Stigma-related aspects of care that facilitate help-seeking

Notable sub-themes included ‘stigma for family’ for people from black and minority ethnic communities and ‘fear of psychiatric patients’, a barrier-related theme arising from the quantitative studies. Overall, the systematic review yielded these main findings:

  • “Stigma was the fourth highest ranked barrier to help seeking [out of ten], with disclosure concerns the most commonly reported stigma barrier”
  • “Ethnic minorities, youth, men, those in the military and health professionals were disproportionately deterred by stigma”
  • “Stigma had a moderate effect on help-seeking compared to other types of barrier”

The authors also noted that seeking help from mental health services could be stigmatising and highlighted the negative effects of internalised stigma, or feelings of shame about having a mental health problem.

Conclusion

The review authors conclude that:

Stigma has a small- to moderate-sized negative effect on help seeking. Review findings can be used to help inform the design of interventions to increase help-seeking.

For applying this research evidence in practice, they recommend that for interventions to improve access to mental health care and support:

multiple different types and aspects of stigma contribute to this effect, consequently multi-faceted approaches are likely to be most productive.

To read the rest of the article, and a summing up, follow this link

Gnarls Barkley -Crazy- VIOLIN AND VOICE Cover – Charles Yang

Gnarls Barkley- Crazy
Covered by: Charles Yang – Violin, Voice

“One of the great voices of our time is Cee Lo Green who was introduced to me through this awesome song “Crazy”. I remember seeing Gnarls Barkley live at the ACL Fest and couldn’t believe how much energy and good vibes Cee Lo and Danger Mouse produced.

With my new video, I thought I would tackle the creative use of the violin with this song. Everything you hear is created with my electric violin and my voice in which I use an octaver, phaser, wah, compressor, and reverb. My voice will never match the great Cee Lo Green’s, but I can say my violin playin can 😉 . I hope you all enjoy and man was it hard to choose a video after Bohemian Rhapsody!” – Charles Yang, June 26 2012

“Hearing Voices, Emancipation, Shamanism and CBT: Thoughts After Douglas Turkington’s Training” – Ron Unger

Dialogues with Madness: A therapist and educator specializing in cognitive therapy for psychosis, Ron Unger explores emerging understandings of psychosis and of efforts to change mental health treatment to support human rights and full recovery.

Ron Unger writes for Mad in America:

When Doug Turkington, a UK psychiatrist, first announced to his colleagues that he wanted to help people with psychotic experiences by talking to them, he was told by some that this would just make them worse, and by others that this would be a risk to his own mental health, and would probably cause him to become psychotic!  Fortunately, he didn’t believe either group, and in the following decades he went on to be a leading researcher and educator about talking to people within the method called CBT for psychosis.

I’m writing about Turkington because I just spent a week learning more about CBT from him at a training in California.  This training was part of a bigger effort to bring this psychological approach into wider use in the western US.  Attending this training and seeing the interest and passion in those who attended got me reflecting on what the role of CBT might be in changing our mental health system overall.

A key question related to that, it seems to me, is the question of how CBT can improve its relationship to another key change effort in the field of psychosis, that of the Hearing Voices Movement (HVN). I have a lot of interest in the possible improvement in that relationship between CBT and HVN, because for quite a while I have had my “feet in both worlds.”  My first involvement with the mental health system was as an activist for change and increased choice, then I became a mental health professional so I could work to provide some of the alternatives I believed should exist.

The first alternative approach to voices I heard about was the CBT methods of Paul Chadwick, so I started with that, and went on to become a CBT practitioner and educator.  Then, when I heard about the HVN, I adopted many of its ideas as well, arranged for Ron Coleman to come to my town of Eugene Oregon to do some trainings, and got an HVN group going here.  While I have always interpreted CBT for psychosis in a flexible way, integrating it with HVN ideas, I have sometimes been unsure how well that would fit with the approach of the CBT for psychosis establishment.  So it was really interesting to spend a week with Turkington, and to have a chance to explore his views in depth.

According to Turkington, the very most important part of cognitive therapy for psychosis is “normalizing” which means framing psychotic experiences as understandable and as just a fairly common variation of normal human experience and issues.  This includes talking with people about how to get past fearing or “catastrophizing” such experiences, and even how to see them as possibly valuable; for example by seeing how such experiences can be part of a creative process or of a shamanic journey, etc.  I have always been open to talking about this positive, somewhat shamanic side of psychotic experiences, and discussion of such views is common within HVN, but it was nice to see Turkington teaching this approach as part of standard CBT for psychosis!

Probably most of you recognize just how uncommon such views are within traditional psychiatry.  Karl Jaspers, for example, stated that the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are “un-understandable: not reflecting a person’s personality or experiences.”  Turkington mentioned that quote and others like it, and then confronted such views sharply, stating that “everything I know about psychosis tells me that such statements are delusional.”  (In a previous MIA post, Olga Runciman faulted CBT for never confronting standard psychiatry.  Turkington may not confront everything that needs to be confronted, but he definitely was willing to strongly critique many existing approaches, and I was amused and impressed by his story of how he measures progress in psychiatry in the US – that is, by the gradual reduction in booing he receives when he speaks about his ideas at the American Psychiatric Association!)

CBT has often been criticized for lacking an interest in people’s stories, but Turkington taught the opposite:  that it is essential to hear people’s stories and to help people clarify them.  He told a story himself about how he and his fellow professionals came to realize this was important.  In some of the earlier research on CBT for psychosis, a control group was arranged of people who were supposed to receive only a “befriending” sort of therapy, where people could just chat about whatever they wanted.

It turned out that many of the people in this control group chose to tell their stories, and these stories were typically about traumas that had happened to them.  At the time, Turkington did not conceptualize psychosis as being particularly related to trauma, but this view quickly changed as a result of what was heard. Turkington does still sees some psychosis, in particular those which start with a lot of “negative symptoms” and problems in thinking, and where “positive symptoms” develop only later, to be likely mostly genetic or biological rather than a result trauma or life stress.

I was skeptical of his conclusion about this, though he did present a fair amount of research indicating that there may be very different explanations for why some people become psychotic compared to others.  The key thing I believe is that we continue to listen and learn, so we can really understand people’s stories even when they vary from our preconceptions, and such listening is very consistent with good CBT.  It may be true that some people are more vulnerable or “sensitive” due to genetic or biological factors, but even in that case, they still may be able to learn to live well with that sensitivity, as when a person genetically vulnerable to sunburn learns how to protect themselves while continuing to be active outdoors, etc.

Developing a “formulation” or story of what has and is going on with a person’s experience and life situation is what Turkington described as the second most important part of CBT for psychosis.  At times in the training, we focused on developing understandings of the story of what was going on “right now” with people – and this is what people more commonly think of as CBT – but at other times, the focus more clearly on understanding the bigger stories of how people’s experience and beliefs had emerged over time, in a meaningful way in response to life events.

The third most important component of CBT was described as being “reality testing.”  This component is usually not emphasized as part of the HVN approach, and may even seem to clash with its “tolerance of all points of view” perspective.  I find, though, that important elements of reality testing can be found in individual stories of HVN members.  Eleanor Longden for example described starting to question the voices herself, then being told by the voices that she would either have to cut off a toe that evening, or they would come that night and kill her entire family.  It was when she was able to stand up to this threat, and stand guard all night over her family instead (with a plastic fork, her only available “weapon”) that she was able to really demonstrate to herself that the voices were not actual beings outside of herself, but something more personal.  This was a key event in her recovery.

Still, it’s easy to imagine “reality testing” being taken to mean the imposition of the therapist’s ideas about reality onto the client, and this is often believed to be the CBT approach.  Turkington argued against this, and suggested it was impossible to do good work unless the therapist could keep an open mind about what might possibly be real.  During the training, he shared stories of apparently supernatural and ghostly events that he had personally experienced, and emphasized that therapists should talk about such experiences with clients and with other therapists, in order to acknowledge our basic uncertainty about the nature of reality.

At the same time, he described CBT as often being often helpful in getting people to notice the ways their experiences might be personal rather than part of the reality being experienced by others, so that they could deal with them more effectively. In the film “Voices Matter“ and in anearlier MIA blog post, Rufus May suggested that we need to go beyond “just CBT” and appreciate the value of experiences like voices for their role as messengers about emotions and issues that need to be dealt with.  I think Rufus is correct, but also, it seemed to me that Turkington was often saying the same thing in different words….

To read the rest of Ron Unger’s article, follow this link

“Mental illness does not excuse violent misogyny” – Laurie Penny

What does a rich, privileged young man have to do to get labelled a terrorist?

Students taking part in a candlelight vigil at UC Santa Barbara. Photo: Getty

 

Laurie Penny writes for The New Statesman:

What does a rich, privileged young man have to do to get labelled a terrorist? On 23 May, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people in California, after recording a video and publishing online a manifesto explaining that the planned massacre was an act of “revenge”. The son of a Hollywood director was taking revenge on the “sluts” who had refused to provide him with the sex he deserved. It was an act of misogynist extremism but, as soon as the news broke, commentators rushed on to social media to explain that the Isla Vista killings weren’t about sexism at all – they were the product of a “lone madman”, a side effect of a poor boy’s social impairment, and as such everyone talking about sexism ought to shut up right away.

As I write, the athlete Oscar Pistorius, who is on trial accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, is undergoing a month of “sanity” testing to determine whether he has an anxiety disorder. If he does, this is likely to form part of his defence. In Norway, there was much debate over whether the mass murderer Anders Breivik should be prosecuted on the basis that he was insane, rather than simply “evil”. Those were the two options – Breivik was mad or he was bad. One or the other.

When wealthy, privileged or well-known individuals kill people while experiencing mental health difficulties, their psychological state is an excuse, a defence. This man was “just” crazy, so we don’t need to look at the reasons behind his actions, even if he has helpfully written a manifesto explaining those reasons (as both Breivik and Rodger did). It can’t be because he was a racist or a misogynist – it must be insanity and we should pity him.

By contrast, when immigrants and people of colour commit crimes while experiencing mental health difficulties – for example, the killers of the soldier Lee Rigby – their mental state is consistently ruled out as a factor. They are thugs, or terrorists, or both. They can’t be mentally ill – if they were, we’d have to empathise with them, so it must be their religion, or their race, turning them into vicious brutes.

Reading Elliot Rodger’s aptly titled manifesto, My Twisted World, one is struck by two things: first, that whichever way you hold up those 140 pages of sexist self-pity, you come to the conclusion that this was an extremely disturbed young man. This was a young man who had “acted out” before, who had severe social anxiety issues and whose family had clearly been concerned about his mental health.

The second thing that strikes you is that, as he grew up, Rodger’s delusions became more specific. He was obsessed with his sexual frustration and was determined to take his revenge on the women who had denied him the pleasure he felt he was owed and the men who had been favoured with their attentions. His hatred was racialised as well as gendered: he was consumed by fantasies about “pretty blondes” and wondered why “black filth” and “Asians” got to have sex with these “sluts” (he himself was half-Asian). The question is not whether Rodger had psychiatric problems. The question is why they took such a poisonous and, ultimately, tragic form.

In his book Going Postal, Mark Ames argues that the trend of office massacres and school shootings in the US is not a result of “lone madmen” but of social frustration, although both can be true. One can be lonely, furious and psychotic – and express that distress in a form that takes the existing savagery of society to its logical conclusion.

The way we talk about mental health is all wrong. For decades, the public conversation about psychosis and mental distress has resisted any analysis of social issues. If you’re depressed, or anxious, or hearing voices, it’s a chemical effect arising spontaneously in your brain – it’s the way you are. This might be considered convenient for those in power keen to overlook the structural causes of mental health problems – causes such as alienation, prejudice, poverty and isolation. That anyone can experience a mental health problem does not mean that mental illness is never political.

Mental distress is not an excuse for brutality. To suggest that does a disservice to the many millions of mental health patients who will never be violent or murderous. According to the charity Time to Change, one in three people believe that a person with a mental illness is a danger to others – but those with mental health problems are far more likely to be the victims of a violent crime than they are to commit one….

To finish reading this article, follow this link

“The People versus The Institution – who wins?” – Victoria Betton

image courtesty of http://www.dreamstime.com

Victoria Betton writes:

What is the relationship between day-to-day practices by ordinary people in social media spaces and institutions? By institutions I mean structures of social order governing behaviours of sets of individuals in a community – in this instance, an NHS Trust or a professional body in healthcare. I’ve been mulling this over for some time…

Remember when it was like the wild-west?

When I first started my PhD research, a little under three years ago, I had become intrigued by everyday conversations in the blogosphere and on Twitter, which were either implicitly or explicitly contesting the dominant narratives of institutions.  There seemed to me to be a heady mix of people accessing mental health services and working in them (usually but not always anonymous) having conversations with a very different quality than those I was used to experiencing within the parameters of professional or institutional discourses. These seemed to me to be often bold, public conversations that challenged the status quo and at times felt wild and risky and exhilarating.

The institution re-asserts itself

During those three years I’ve noticed professional practices tiptoeing quietly but assuredly from the boardroom and the ward into social media spaces. This is exemplified by the plethora of guidance on use of social media for pretty much any professional group in the health sector. They are often defensively focused with a tendency to emphasise professionalism and boundaries over the affordances of public conversation to positively disrupt received relationships and effect change.

I recall when I set up my blog in 2012 a colleague asked me how on earth I’d managed to get approval from my organisation.  How much has changed in the space of a few years – social media platforms are increasingly integrated into day-to-day life for many of us.  The phenomenally successful @wenurses chats even made it in to the Francis Report as an exemplary example of continuing professional development. As I write this post, the Health Service Journal and the Nursing Times have jointly published a list of social media pioneers and NHS Employers launched asocial media toolkit earlier this year. Social media are no longer at the margins – they are increasingly part of conventional professional and institutional practices.

Is the institution, with its boundaries and its rules, crowding what are essentially people-orientated spaces, and to what extent does this qualitatively influence dialogue within them? Or is this acceptance by institutions to be welcomed? Organisations are in a double bind – they need to be in those spaces to know what people are saying about them and respond accordingly, but they find it tricky to find their stride in the maelstrom of conversation racing through Twitter timelines.

How is this affecting day-to-day practices?

Professionals using social media platforms in relation to their work are pushing themselves to the very boundaries of the institution by opening up their conversations to the public gaze and even inviting the public to comment and contribute. @markoneinfour has spoken about the notion of ‘public professionals’ and you can read what he has to say here.

But is this visibility resulting in more circumspect and guarded conversations? My research interviews suggest that for some working in services there is an increased awareness of the institution with its parameters and controls, which leads to self-editing and more cautious behaviours, for fear of reprimand. However, on the odd occasion when a public sector organisation has decided to put its corporate foot down it has invariably come of worst in reputational terms – see this post as an example. It’s not straight forward…

To finish reading this article, follow this link

“The Psychiatric Drugging of America’s Foster Children” – Dr. Peter Breggin

“Drugging traumatized foster children shoves them under society’s rug and is in no way therapeutic for the child. There are humane and effective approaches to helping our most vulnerable children.” — Peter Breggin, Psychiatrist

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin writes for The Liberty Beacon:

The most vulnerable among us are the littlest victims. Young children, torn from their birth families through various, often unspeakable tragedies. These children end up in state supervised foster care and too often are passed from hand to hand, house to house. There were approximately 662,000 children in foster care in the United States in 2010.

Now there is a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report confirming that foster children in five states — Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas — are receiving shocking amounts of psychiatric drugs. In the words of ABC News, they are “being prescribed psychiatric medications at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in these five states alone. And hundreds of foster children received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time despite absolutely no evidence supporting the simultaneous use or safety of this number of psychiatric drugs taken together.” The ABC News report shows one 7-year-old holding a bag filled with 13 psychiatric medications that she had taken.

During the FDA drug-approval process, the maximum dose of a drug is determined by giving that drug by itself without any other psychoactive substances. When two or more psychiatric drugs are given together, each at its maximum dose, toxic levels of exposure can occur. In addition, some of these children are being given higher than the FDA-approved dose of individual drugs.

One young child interviewed by ABC News described the effect of the antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs he was taking: “They made me feel like I had a thousand bricks on my head.” Another child said, “Some of the medications were for ADHD but I’m not ADHD, I’m just naughty.” A teen in foster care on multiple psychiatric drugs told ABC News she felt like a “guinea pig.”

Foster children are provided government insurance in the form of Medicaid that includes “mental health” services such as psychiatric evaluations and prescription drug coverage. Individual states administer Medicaid and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for overseeing the state programs.

In the states surveyed by the GAO, children in Massachusetts fared worst. Thirty-nine percent of the foster care children aged 0-17 on Medicaid were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug. By comparison, 10 percent of non-foster care children in Massachusetts were prescribed at least one psychotropic medication under Medicaid. It’s serious enough when 10 percent of non-foster care children from our poorer communities are receiving psychiatric drugs; it’s even more tragic when 39 percent of our most poor and abandoned children are being inundated with these drugs. Other states in the GAO study had total numbers of foster care children on Medicaid being prescribed at least one psychiatric drug: Oregon — 19.7 percent; Texas — 32.2 percent; Florida — 22 percent; and Michigan — 21 percent. The statistics reported are eye-opening, and it is worthwhile to see the full GAO report. In Texas, for instance, 9.1 percent of foster care children aged 0-5 years old are on at least one psychiatric drug, and 58.2 percent of foster care children aged 13-17 years old are on at least one psychiatric drug.  Massachusetts has 53.4 percent of foster care children aged 13-17 on at least one psychiatric drug, and almost 5 percent of foster children aged 0-5 are on at least one psychiatric drug.

Is this widespread psychiatric drugging medically appropriate or indicated? Absolutely not. First of all, these are young children, even infants, who have already been through extremely traumatic experiences. All of them have been taken from their homes and most of them will not have had a stable replacement home. Beyond that, one can only imagine their horrendous living conditions prior to being removed from their families of origin. These children do not need psychoactive substances — they need the best human, caring services that our society can provide. The drugs may make them temporarily more docile, but by disrupting and suppressing normal brain function and development, they add new stressors to their lives and prevent them from adapting and growing as best as possible.

ABC News reports, “Of all the psychiatric medications, antipsychotics are, by far, the most prescribed, especially for foster children. Foster children are given anti-psychotics at a rate nine times higher than children not in foster care, according to a 2010 16-state analysis by Rutgers University of nearly 300,000 foster children.”….

To finish reading this article, follow this link

The Divide Over Involuntary Mental Health Treatment – Kirk Siegler

Involuntary commitment to a hospital for mental illness can be a lengthy and complex process. A California law makes mandatory outpatient treatment an option.

 

Kirk Siegler writes for NPR:

The attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, are renewing focus on programs aimed at requiring treatment for people who are mentally ill as a way to prevent mass shootings and other violence.

In California, a 2002 law allows authorities to require outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue that this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts.

But counties within the state have been slow to adopt the legislation and mental health professionals are divided over its effects.

Do Family And Friends Know Best?

The story behind Laura’s Law begins in 2001. In rural Nevada County, near Lake Tahoe, 19-year-old Laura Wilcox was shot and killed by a 41-year-old man with a history of mental illness. He had walked into the county’s behavioral health center and opened fire.

“[Officials] were declaiming privacy issues and stuff and wouldn’t communicate with the family,” Anderson says. “He … started amassing guns and setting up booby traps around his house and he had this psychosis of he was going to be attacked any minute.”

Now Nevada County’s presiding judge, Anderson is also a vocal advocate for Laura’s Law, which was passed by the state legislature in 2002. The law allows counties to compel outpatient treatment for people whose family or friends are concerned about their mental state. It’s seen as an intermediate step before someone is forced into inpatient psychiatric care.

“The beauty of the program — the wonderment of it to me — is that roughly about 60 percent of the people that they do outreach to, where they go out to intervene after a person has been referred, voluntarily accept services at that time,” he says…

To read the rest of the article, or listen to it, follow this link