I got an invitation in the mail today from a pharmaceutical company requesting my child’s participation in a clinical trial for childhood depression. “Is your child sad?” it asked. “It might be depression,” it suggested. The company offered to pay me for allowing them to try out a drug on my child.
The unsolicited invitation felt like a subtle act of violence against my children and my family. If my child is sad, who is to blame? Bad genes, bad parenting, a society that separates parents and children, a prison-like school environment, lack of mental health care, overuse of psychoactive medications that adversely affect children’s developing brains.
The psychoactive drugging of children is linked in my mind to gun violence in schools. What have all the shooters had in common?
Blame game: Bullies, guns, psychoactive drugs
One of my favorite teachers and her husband were killed by their teenage son before he took guns to school and shot several students. Why did he have access to guns? Because he had an interest in guns. His father had supported his interest by taking him to the shooting range and teaching him to shoot.
Why did the boy target his parents and fellow students? He said he wanted to spare his parents from the vengeance he planned to enact on kids who had bullied him and teachers who hadn’t helped.
The boy had been on psychoactive drugs since first grade. I think his diagnosis was ADHD.
Guns, drugs, family attachment, and school
At present, the public is crying out for, and against, gun control. The White House has issued 23 executive orders to help stem the tide of gun violence. There’s talk about training teachers to use guns for protection against students in the classroom.
I’ve often wondered about the role of the mental health industry, powered by pharmaceutical companies, in affecting children’s lives, their sadness and their violence, by changing their brains.
In the past few decades, mental health care has been reduced to prescribing psychoactive drugs with less and less attention paid to what causes unhappiness or mood instability in the first place.
Labeling and diagnosing: Abnormal or reasonably unhappy?
Should childhood unhappiness, shown through melancholy or acting out, be medicated? Do all these diagnoses really exist? Which came first, the dx or the drug to treat it?
Why do school shootings keep happening? Mental illness, drugs, bullies, schools, parenting, society? All of it?
In “It’s Time to Wake Up and Stop the Violence,” Oryx Cohen suggested that we start the conversation with the effect of our society’s labeling of people as abnormal.
“Not many people at all are talking about the effect that labeling or diagnosing others has on the rest of the society. . .Just because we live in a culture that has hundreds of different ways of categorizing people as abnormal – bipolar, oppositional defiant, autistic, etc., – does not mean that we as individuals have to accept it or use that language to describe other people.”
Cohen suggests that labeling children as different can lead to isolation, bullying, and violence.
“To me, these labels are in some ways a more socially and scientifically accepted form of name-calling, which is a form of psychological violence. If we can make a conscious choice to not use these labels in our own lives, we can go a long way to stopping the violence.”
If the labeling can be perceived as violent, what about the effects of psychiatric drugs to digestive, immune, and thyroid function, weight gain, anxiety, and many other “side effects.”
“And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for [our children] and shield them from harm and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing, not just to pursue their own dreams but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.” –from President Obama’s remarks on gun violence on January 16th, 2013.
Who’s to blame? What’s to blame? Parenting, prison-like school environments, bullying, mental illness, labeling, drugging, isolation, society, gun control? How can we keep our children safe? We can start by questioning all of these things that we as a society have accepted as normal, or abnormal, but perhaps should not have.