I am just back from a conference – or what was called a study meeting – at the Vatican, entitled, “The Child as a Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared.” Held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the two-day meeting on Friday June 14 and Saturday June 15 in the Vatican’s Pope Pius X Hall drew some 250 participants from 30 countries.
This has been 6 years in the making, mainly representing the hard work and perseverance of Marcia Barbacki. I have also participated for the duration because I thought it was, perhaps, the best opportunity ever to spread the word about the risks of psychotropics for youth given that Catholic Health Care represents 26% of the world’s healthcare and the Church’s ability to disseminate information to all corners of the globe. Considering the power of the pharmaceutical behemoth, I thought that maybe the Catholic Church might help if key individuals understood the risks that psychotropics bring to children — that they might make accurate information available in an area typically shrouded in industry marketing.
I just read Robert Whitaker’s account of his experience; his disappointment, in essence. I walked away with a completely different sense. Bob’s blog brought to mind one of my favorite Stones’ tunes: You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometime you just might find… you get what you need! That’s what sums it up for me because I came away wit – or at the least the possibility of – getting exactly what I need. Let me explain.
It is unequivocally true that that the conference went through many renditions and changed significantly from what we originally proposed and wanted (a full 2 day conference with speakers that we chose to examine the risks and benefits of psychotropics across the lifespan). But, we can’t always get what we want…
Instead, what the conference evolved to after much deliberation and consultation within the Council was a two-day study meeting that included 11 of our speakers couched within 40 others covering a variety of topics related to the care of children from medical, religious, anthropological, multicultural, and practice perspectives. Our speakers examined the trend of increasing psychotropic prescription and asked, “Are the rising global prescription rates justified by the clinical trial evidence?” Our interdisciplinary team of the world’s leading authorities (see list in previous blog of the team) examined the evidence and concluded that psychosocial options should be the first choice. Seven of our speakers presented for twenty minutes while four of our team served the all-important role of moderator.
And what happened was quite remarkable. Our team won the participants over. Our presenters and moderators made a very compelling case for prescribing caution instead of psychotropics. I believe that we were successful largely because many in the audience were already on our side anyway. We tapped into common themes found in many (certainly not all) presentations: namely that the child cannot be reduced to a biological description and that love, family, culture, and spirituality were key elements in any therapeutic approach.
And then our four moderators convened in a separate room to meet with members of the Pontifical Council to offer specific recommendations for guidelines the Council might want pediatricians, psychiatrists, and others working with children around the world to consider. Despite the diversity within this group, there were some commonalities that quickly developed that echoed the above themes, and that dispensing a pill, in other words, is not the answer. The prevailing view of this closed door session was that psychosocial and spiritual approaches — such as connecting the child to family counseling, churches and other activities — should be the first line of treatment with children. This was, of course, our goal from the very beginning! So if you try, sometime, you just mind find, that you get what you need!
We were told at the conference that the Council is planning to issue guidelines (not dictates) that would be the direct result of the study meeting and proceedings. If the guidelines even approximate the sentiments of the participants and the deliberations of the moderators with the Council representatives, then this endeavor holds incredible promise to alter prescriptive practices.
We are very grateful to the Vatican, the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Health Care Workers, and especially Archbishop Zygmond Zymowski, president of the Council for the courage to host this conference despite its controversial nature and all the viewpoints that he had to represent.
Let’s sing it together: You can’t always get what you want…
PS: Our seven speakers’ presentations are posted at heartandsoulofchange.com
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.