Regular MIA readers may have noticed that we recently added a content box on the front page titled “Parent Resources.” This initiative has been a long time coming, and it is one that we hope will help us reach—and serve—a new group of readers.
The genesis for this initiative can be found in our email inbox. We regularly receive emails from parents who have seen their children fare poorly on psychiatric drugs and are desperately looking for a way out of the conventional system. Often, I am the one who responds to such emails, and given that for the longest time we didn’t have any resource specifically for parents, I regularly ended my responses by saying that I was “sorry” we couldn’t be of more help.
That began to change more than a year ago when Eric Maisel encouraged us to set up a page for parents. We are now expanding on that initial effort and making it a priority.
As we do so, we know that many parents coming to our site are new to “critical psychiatry” perspectives. Thus, this section will necessarily become a new “door” for entering MIA, one that provides an introduction to this perspective.
In essence, the “parents resource” section has four components:
1. Critiquing diagnosis
Psychiatry’s “disease model” presents diagnoses given to children and adolescents—ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, juvenile bipolar disorder, depression, and so forth—as illnesses of the brain. This conception encourages parents to think that their children need medical treatments for the illness, which is to say psychiatric medications. The Parents Resource page will provide blogs, science reports, and video interviews that challenge that diagnostic framework, and encourage thinking about childhood difficulties in non-medical ways.
You can see this type of challenge to conventional diagnostic thinking in the remarkable series of video interviews, titled “Parenting Today,” produced by Eric Maisel and Heather Juergensen that is running on MIA now.
2. Information on psychiatric drugs in pediatric populations
Many parents writing to us bitterly complain about what they were told by prescribers about the drugs given to their children. They often were told that the drugs fixed chemical imbalances, that the drugs had minimal side effects and were highly effective, and what they want now is a more scientifically accurate description of the drugs’ risks and benefits. The parents want to make informed choices for their children.
In response, we are in the process of preparing a drug information section that will seek to explain, in easily-understood terms, how different classes of drugs act on the brain, and the relevant “evidence” for their short-term and long-term effects, with hyperlinks to the relevant studies. We will also be providing summary information about their side effects.
3. Explorations of non-drug alternatives/therapies
The Parent Resources section features recent scientific findings and blogs that tell of non-drug methods for helping children. For instance, Finnish psychiatrist Ben Furman tells of a Kids’ Skills program that he helped develop and is now used in many countries. This resource is not meant to recommend any particular approach, but rather provide information about such efforts.
In addition, we will be publishing reviews of the scientific literature regarding the merits of non-drug approaches, with hyperlinks to the studies.
4. Support for parents
Many parents have told us of how isolated they feel once they begin challenging conventional care, and how difficult it can be to resist the pressure they get to medicate their children. They find themselves at odds with school officials, psychiatrists and other professionals, and often the message they hear is that their resistance to psychiatric drugs is preventing their children from getting needed medical treatment. The message is that they are bad parents if they don’t medicate their kids.
In response, we have started a Facebook group for parents, Mad in the Family, where parents can share their thoughts and information. We are also organizing two online support groups, which will begin in November.
So far, this initiative is focusing on providing resources to parents of children and adolescents. However, we know that parents of adult children often seek alternatives to conventional care (and can feel the same isolation and resistance), and so we may seek to expand the focus in coming months.
The number of our affiliates is continuing to increase, and we are beginning to see how this growing MIA network can have an impact that is bigger than the sum of its individual parts. During the second week of October, the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development issued a report calling for a global increase in psychiatric services. In response, Mad in America and our affiliates published news items, radio podcasts, and critiques of that report. This sharing of stories and reports helped reveal the perspectives of people in Asia, Europe, the United States and other parts of the world to this call for an increase in global mental health services.
We have two new affiliates in the planning stage: Mad in Sweden and Mad in Germany. Our other affiliates are Mad in Brasil, Madinamerica-hispanohablante, Mad in Finland, Mad in the UK, and Mad in Asia. We have created a MIA Global page that publishes summaries of articles published by our affiliates.
In the coming year, our plan is to do more original reporting. This will include publishing more MIA reports; interviews with researchers; articles on political developments in this field; and video reports that tell of the lives of people—the homeless, ex-prisoners, young adults who were raised in foster care—that we rarely hear from.
We recently set up a new page for our videos, and we want to use this medium more in the coming months to tell the personal stories that, from our inception, have been at the heart of this website.
Finally, we will be redoing our drug info section to make it more comprehensive and better organized. I initially set up this section as a way to provide access to the studies that I had cited in my book Anatomy of an Epidemic, and the section has grown somewhat haphazardly since then. This “redo” will enable us to present drug info material in a manner that readers will find much more useful.