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Next week, June 13, Mad in America will be live-streaming a press event that precedes a conference taking place at the Vatican; “The Child as a Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared.”
As many interviews and as much coverage as we are allowed from the event itself (June 14-15) will be made available live to MIA readers. Marcia Barbacki, a principle organizer of the conference – which has been seven years in the making – writes here about its purpose and provenance:
Leading Experts to Speak at Vatican about the Controversy of Children and Psychotropics
by Marcia Barbacki
Psychiatric medications have emerged as a first line of treatment for youth emotional and behavioral problems. Concurrently, the use of psychosocial intervention has fallen. More disturbing is the fact that poor children are disproportionately prescribed psychotropics, especially antipsychotics.
An upcoming June 14-15 conference at the Vatican examines this trend—making accurate information available in an area typically shrouded in industry marketing—and asks, “Are the rising global prescription rates justified by the clinical trial evidence?”
An interdisciplinary team of the world’s leading authorities, including award winning journalist Robert Whitaker (Anatomy of an Epidemic) and acclaimed Harvard psychologist Irving Kirsch (The Emperor’s New Drugs), and many other renowned psychiatrists, psychologists, and critical thinkers will examine and debate the controversy about the safety and effectiveness of psychotropics and other treatments, and conclude that based on the evidence, psychosocial options should be the first choice.
This conference has been 7 years in the making and represents perhaps the best opportunity ever to spread the word about the risks of psychotropics for children and adolescents 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. We are very grateful to the Vatican leadership for the courage to host this conference despite its controversial nature. A conference on this topic is consistent with the committment to life and family of the Catholic Church.We are grateful to many others in Rome and beyond, who believed in us and our mission over the last seven years; encouraging us and guiding our way to this conference.
We have high hopes for this conference that brings many of the world’s leading experts together to discuss and debate this critical healthcare issue. First, we hope that the Vatican will continue to host efforts to examine the way human problems are approached by physicians and other health care workers across the planet. Specifically, we would like to see another conference in follow-up that brings in service users’ voices and personal stories, and addresses the problems of psychotropic prescription not only with children but across the lifespan, including the frail elderly.
We are looking at ways to disseminate the information from this conference and unbiased information in general about psychotropics to all corners of the world to counter the market-driven information that is ever so available at every level. We are looking into the possibility of making the conference proceedings available on line. If you would like to see this happen please let us know.
We are encouraging in all our presentations that the world wide reach of the Church help make it possible for each and every encounter with a person in distress to involve a risk benefit analysis at the individual level, true informed consent, and the availability of multiple non-medical options that honor personal, familial, cultural, and spiritual preferences.
We are hearing already from press and media representatives. Our hope is that this conference will stimulate much needed debate which will be reflected in the media taking a much closer look and going well beyond the usual industry promotions that dominate the coverage of this issue.
The big picture for us is saving lives and a higher standard of care for services to children. It is time to no longer accept prescriptive practices that do not follow the evidence and increasingly put children at perilous risk for serious health consequences, dependence, and disability.
Our responsibility is heightened here because youth do not have a voice to say ‘no’ to treatments or devise their own, and depend on adults to safeguard their well-being. Moreover, poor children, including foster children, often have fewer adults watching over them and are vulnerable to dangerous drugs used as interventions of control rather than therapy, and therefore require more attention to ensure just treatment. It is our ultimate hope that this conference and the efforts of those dedicated to this topic will actually make a difference in the lives of children who find themselves in harm’s way, children who are often harmed even more by the treatments they receive.
Updates are coming. Please feel free to respond with your support to this blog, and we’ll let the Vatican know that their attention to this issue is so very much appreciated by all of you.
Marcia Barbacki has been a practicing occupational therapist for 30 years with experience working with children, families and older adults in the clinical as well as home setting.