Judith Warner on Children, Parents, Mental Health, and Medication

Monday, February 07, 2011

Judith Warner investigates the state of children’s mental health and whether children are being over-diagnosed and over-medicated. Her book We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication includes extensive research and interviews with dozens of doctors, researchers, family experts, and parents and brings compassion to the debate over how to best treat children’s mental health disorders.


Judith Warner

Comments [13]

Amy from Manhattan

ADHD frequently coexists w/substance use disorder, in addition to the other comorbid conditions Ms. Warner named, & many patients are treated for only 1 condition when they need treatment for both.

Feb. 08 2011 12:54 AM
D.Torres from Nathan Straus Projects

My youngest sister born on April of 1957, was mentally ill.
I was 7 years older and don't remember
a time when Esther wasn't sick.
But no one knew that Esther was sick,
even though her behaviour was so
My mother said "Esther is nervous".
Esther would scream & cry for hours
if she didn't see her mother and my
mother went to work everyday.
She worked for the welfare department
for 20 years.
Esther would spin around, drop
on the ground and then spin around
some more for hours.
I was called to go to the school
and pick her up, when she was in 4th
grade, and then the school never
wanted her back.
My mother and I went to the Public
School to try to get her re admitted
but they refused.
They sent a teacher to the home
for Esther, but she was never allowed
back in a classroom.
My mother tried diets, psychologist,
vitamins, remedies that she would
get from the alternative medicine
places, all night prayer vigils in the Pentecostal Church El Salvador, for Esther, but nothing changed Esther.
She loved weddings and would go
to the Catholic Church, just to look
at the weddings.
The psychiatrist told my mother that
my mother was "cold" and that was
why Esther was sick.
My mother never liked hugging, or
touching of any kind, that's just how
she was.
But my mother took care of all of us,
worked two jobs to provide for us,
at the welfare department and
B&Altman during the Christmas season.
My mother just didn't like touching.
But I knew that Esther's condition
couldn't be because of that.
Esther was eventually hospitalized
on a volunteer basis at Creedmore,
but because my mother didn't like
the conditions, she signed Esther out.
I think my mother died to get away
from Esther.
Esther is still alive and lives
in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY.

Feb. 07 2011 01:41 PM
MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick from Mount Vernon, New York

Our son (profoundly autistic) is on Abilify. We've also tried Concerta and Risperdal.

He is ten, now, and we waited until he was eight to try medication.

He had intensive early intervention, ABA, special schools, we tried a number of dietary interventions... but still -- at this point-- experiences terrible rages where he bites himself, slaps himself, or tries to bite us. Our home life is barely tolerable at times WITH the medication. WITHOUT it it would be truly intolerable (we took him off the medication one time....terrible mistake).

Before you judge whether or not one should medicate their children you should look at their individual circumstances.

Feb. 07 2011 12:48 PM
NABNYC from SoCal

I'm not a fan of drugs, particularly for children. But we do know that millions of children are raised in environments that are likely to impair their mental and physical health, shorten their lives, make them unhappy and at high risk of drug addiction and alcoholism, and make them likely to always have significant conflict in their personal and work lives. Any child raised in a home with alcoholism or drug addiction is at high risk of all these problems, assuming they don't cut it short with suicide.

I wonder why we are so willing to give kids drugs (profitable for drug companies) but unwilling to give kids help when they are clearly living in distressed and emotionally abusive circumstances. ADHD may well be caused by environmental exposures to chemicals, and we, as a society, are responsible to these children. But what about the rest of the kids who are being raised in homes where they are being severely damaged every day? It seems that the only time we do much for kids is if some private corporation -- drug sellers in the case of ADHD -- can profit from it.

Feb. 07 2011 12:41 PM
manhattan mom from nyc

Doctors may or may not be incorrectly or over- prescribing medications but the real danger is the lack of monitoring the child once they are given medication. Especially after that initial 2-week period. Then when kids have new or continued symptoms they are just given more drugs! BTW drug companies know people are resistant now to drugs for kids and have started hawking ADHD meds for elderly people to "help" with mental acuity!

Feb. 07 2011 12:36 PM

How will Cuomo's cuts in Medicaid affect poor children's access to Psychiatric care? How well to changes for Mental Health Parity in Obama's Health Law affect them?

Separately, Leonard, please do a separate segment on the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, which haven't been mentioned in this segment, and are highly stigmatized. When most people think of schizophrenia now they think of murderers.

Feb. 07 2011 12:34 PM

We tried Neurofeedback (several years ago) for our daughter and had to stop because it's very expensive and insurance does not cover it. You really need to go more than once a week--and at $80.00 a session it gets prohibitive fast!

Feb. 07 2011 12:31 PM
Lew from New York, NY

I am a psychiatrist and have been listening to this segment. Thus far, I have yet to disagree with Ms. Warner re ADHD, psychiatric diagnoses, the role of medications, and the effect of the government's abdication of it's role in the funding and oversight of psychopharmacological research.

Feb. 07 2011 12:30 PM
Louis from Bayside

The fundamental problem is that psychology takes an overly biological approach to the matters of the heart. It is predicated on the assumption that the mind or consciousness is created by the brain which leads to a biological approach to the solution (i.e. drugs). It would be far more appropriate to view our physical condition as being dependently related to the mind within the context of mental illness.

Also Judith is making a false distinction in her definition of pathology because she says stress is not a mental disorder but that depression is. The line is completely arbitrary as we all suffer due to a certain level of pathology in our consciousness called selfishness! The degree of social disability we suffer has a direct relationship with our degree of pathology (i.e. a little stress makes us a little less functional and a lot of stress makes us a lot less functional) so a lot of concern about the mental health profession stems from the arbitrary nature of creating classifications of pathological conditions as if were weren't all suffering from some degree of pathological excessive self concern.

Feb. 07 2011 12:29 PM
Philip from NYC

I am a 53 year old adult who was only recently diagnosed with A.D.D. I grew up thinking that I was just stupid. As it turns out I have a very high IQ and fell into depression as a child because I could not meet my potential. The great news is that I discovered treatment with Neurofeedback after a few years of ridding the roller coaster of medications. Neurofeedback uses radio waves to stimulate the brain and has fine turned my brain to attend to what is in front of me. I wish Neurofeedback was more widely used for children.

Feb. 07 2011 12:26 PM
Matthew Titmus from Bay Shore, NY

As an adult sufferer of the inattentive subtype of ADHD, I can personally attest that despite the common assumption of ADHD being grossly over-diagnosed, the typical lack of obvious behavior problems in children with the inattentive subtype can lead to an under diagnosis. When I was finally diagnosed and treated at the age of 33, I for the first time could finally understand what it was like to feel "normal". I can't help but think that had I been treated as a child, my life could have very different.

Feb. 07 2011 12:24 PM
Foo from Brooklyn NY

Hi- We have been through years (not to mention thousands of dollars worth) of evaluations to 'figure out' what is up with our son. After three years in a special ed school (very expensive) and visits to at least three pschologists, a psychiatrist and psycho pharm expert we decided at long last we that it would be in our 8 year old's best interest to at least do a trial for our learning diabled, ADHD/Inattentive type. The trial was a bit of a disaster, but now I am hopeful that we can find something elase that can help my son attend and learn. There has been no rush and we've tried therapy, special ed school and 'at home' exercises. I even joked recently "I am not a psychologist, but I read about being one in books!" This is a truly harrowing journey and it will continue - EVEN after we find a medication that can work.

Feb. 07 2011 12:15 PM
suzanne from somewhere in the north east

As a mother of a child with several diagnoses, I too thought he was overmedicated. However now that he willingly does not take his medication--I see how necessary he needs them. Parents really have it difficult but kids with these disorders is even harder. It's almost as if we are losing our children who are still alive. Thanks for your book.

Feb. 07 2011 12:10 PM

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