This morning, I came across an interesting article in Scientific American, Should Children Take Antipsychotic Drugs? Like other pieces I’ve read on this topic, it addressed the serious side effects children can experience from antipsychotics. But I appreciated that this article also included evidence that, for certain childhood mental illnesses–including bipolar disorder–these drugs DO work.
Less heartening were some of the ignorant and negative reader comments, including several with the tired old “let’s-blame-the-parents-for-their-kids’ problems” theme. Sigh. So, so sick of that one. I couldn’t resist responding to one commenter and thought I’d share (a slightly edited version of) what I wrote:
Please don’t assume poor parenting is to blame every time a child is diagnosed with ADHD or another mental illness. As the mother of a child with bipolar disorder and ADHD, I believe this is the exception rather than the rule. I’ve done a good enough job of beating myself up for my kid’s problems–and second-guessing myself about how best to help her–without reinforcement from those who aren’t in my shoes.
Like most parents of a seriously troubled child, I tried many other things–including twice-a-week therapy for almost a year, school counseling and seeking multiple opinions from top psychiatrists and other doctors–before turning to an antipsychotic as a last resort. In my daughter’s case, even her anti-meds therapist agreed that she needed medication to get stable enough to benefit from therapy. There’s no denying that antipsychotics can have serious side effects. And they are not magic bullets. I’m constantly weighing the risks and benefits of my daughter’s medication and work closely with her doctor to monitor potential problems. But as the mounting evidence cited in this article indicates, antipsychotics do work for kids with some mental disorders. They have definitely helped my daughter.