Showing 54 of 54 comments.
Thanks, LavenderSage. Agreed.
Hi Daniel, thanks for sharing that powerful, beautiful story. Oh, how I wish every young person could hear and receive that message. Let’s keep spreading it!
Hi Julie, good reminder that we can’t assume that everybody has the same experiences. In fact, they’re all different! That’s what makes life so challenging—and so interesting. I’m so sad to hear about how misguided therapy alienated you from your family members. I hope you’re able to get your family back. Hang in there!
Yes, no wonder Rebecka didn’t feel herself—and that we didn’t recognize her!
I’m not sure how common it is for someone so young to be on multiple psychotropics, but it certainly happens—even in much younger children. Here is a study from 2010 on the matter: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952543/
The conclusion: “Although little is known about the safety and efficacy of regimens that involve concomitant use of two or more psychotropic agents for children and adolescents, multi-class psychotropic pharmacy is becoming increasingly common in outpatient practice.”
You’re so right. It’s encouraging to see more schools embrace social and emotional learning curricula, but we have a long way to go to change perceptions about what kids really need.
Hi Julie, thanks for your comment. Yes, I didn’t have space to get into that in this article, but it was interesting (and scary!) to witness how influential a diagnosis, or even the hint of a diagnosis, can be on a person’s behavior and identity. This is one of the many reasons, the first words out of my mouth to any parent seeking my counsel is what I described above: “Make sure she knows there is nothing *wrong* with her.” I think this singular perspective can change the trajectory of a young person’s experience. Peace to you.
Thank you so much for writing this. Organized and easy to understand. Sharing widely!
Hi Julie, thanks so much! I look forward to continued conversation as well.
Thanks so much for this. I love the variety of ideas among these comments—they’re all giving me a lot to think about. I am starting to work on another book, and it’s so great to hear the different perspectives. This is by no means a black and white matter—at any level. So many layers of complexity it sometimes makes my head spin. Writing helps me sort out my thoughts and comments like yours keep me going. Peace, Tabita
That’s right. I’m still looking for the right words to describe what (most?) humans want to experience—satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, nirvana… I use the term “mental health,” because my audience “understands” it, realizing that I continue to reinforce the biomedical model. Suggestions welcome.
Hi Julie, thanks for telling your story for so many years, despite the persecution you experienced. Dogs are better than people is the general consensus in our family. 🙂 Hi to Puzzle from our Sophie the Bichon.
Thanks Matt. I know it was hard for my daughter at first to get on board with speaking out through our book. As a teenager, she didn’t risk being punished by employers or others in power, but she risked stigmatization by her friends and becoming “the weirdo” or “the attention seeker” at her small liberal arts college. In the end, she decided that if her story could help others, the risk was worth it. She still has her friends and she experienced no negative social impact. On the contrary, she has people walk up to her on campus and sharing their own stories. Powerful!
Good for you for looking for answers outside the medical establishment. Childhood trauma is certainly a known risk factor for poor physical and mental health outcomes. Depending our our definition of trauma, I think you’re definitely right about it being the source of much distress. I believe that our medication first treatment paradigm allows us as a society to turn a blind eye on the structural issues that underlie much distress. This is one of my big concerns with it—that it lets us off the hook from providing child-centered education, family-friendly policies, restorative justice, living wages, equality, etc, etc, etc.
Thanks Fiachra. Wonderful remarks about your dental experience.
Ray, this is so beautiful. Your story is yours to tell. Peace to you.
markps2, thanks for your comment. People in power certainly have a platform that others do not. And I understand if people choose not to tell their stories for fear of further discrimination and punishment. It is an invitation and a choice.
Eileen, thanks so much for pushing the boundaries on use of language here. One of the best things about the MIA community is that I’m always learning to think about the topic at large in new ways. Language matters. Yes, these are difficult concepts to grasp, so I’m constantly looking for better ways to express myself to spread this message. “Say oppression and repression, not depression.” Wow. Yes!
Thanks! There are certainly a number of micro factors that contribute to children’s mental health, such as nutritional deficiencies and sensitivities. My primary interest lies in understanding why these micro factors are present in the first place. What are the macro factors affecting our mental health (e.g. economic, political, social, cultural, environmental)? It’s all incredibly intertwined, so I appreciate you bringing up the zinc deficiency as an example of the micro/individual layer of mental health optimization.
Very good questions. I certainly have questions about NAMI, which I raise in my book. I also know that many people value the support they get from such a group. I am speaking to our campus’s Active Minds group this week. This seems like a good alternative support network and doesn’t have the Big Pharma funding that NAMI does (from what I can tell from their 2014 financial report). I’ll be talking to them about the bigger social issues that undermine our ability to live healthy lives. Should be a good discussion.
Great points! I’m glad you are out in the world helping families be healthy. It is certainly difficult to look inward (we fought it for a long time!), but once you (as a parent) assume the responsibility, great things happen. As I write in my book, “I eagerly accept the responsibility that comes with being a parent and actually find it comforting that the art of parenting is an acquired skill. This means we as parents can learn how best to interact with our children and provide a nurturing environment to optimize their mental health. It also means that as a society, we can offer concrete support to parents in their quest to raise happy, healthy children.” Thanks for being that support.
Hi squash, I couldn’t agree more. This post was more focused on preparing kids for the current reality. This shouldn’t stop us from working in parallel on a host of contributing social issues, some of which you mention above. It’s a complex problem with lots of layers.
I love your comment: “Seems to me a ton of kids are responding in a very logical way to a very ill society.” Yes, yes, yes! It’s time we do something about it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree we need to make it easier for parents to do their most important job: raise compassionate, healthy, responsible adults.
Thanks for the resources!
Thanks for reading!
Great to hear from a fellow Iowan! And glad you found Whitaker’s book—truly lifesaving. I love this phrase “dreaming out loud.” I’ll keep doing it. 🙂
Yes, I love that word, ‘abundance.’ It holds so much promise for the future. I think you’re right! Let’s keep spreading the word.
Oops – hit the wrong button. See my reply below. 🙂
Thanks for your comment. Families absolutely have to be at the center! That’s why a lot of the policy changes I advocate for have to do with families: parental leave, living wages, child-centered education, etc. But the more I’ve pondered the topic, I’ve realized that change has to start with families and communities—a bottom-up approach. It won’t be easy, but I can’t think of a better way to spend the rest of my living days. I hope you have a chance to check out my book! Peace to you.
P.S. If you want your mind blown—and a model for how to do it without money—check out Michael Tellinger’s “UBUNTU Contributionism.”
Hi! Thanks for your note. My community group has been watching The Century of the Self series, but I haven’t been able to make it to the screenings. Now I will definitely check it out! Hope you enjoy the book. I appreciate your support!
Rossa, thanks for your thoughts. My conclusion from years of research and conversation and thinking about this topic is that there is no way to separate mental health from social, political, and ethical issues. So much of the suffering we see today is a direct result of a profit-at-all-cost system. As several readers have pointed out, capitalism as we know it is not sustainable. I appreciate your pointers on how to be most effective, but my conscience tells me I must work toward building a different society—one based on cooperation, kindness, equality, and sustainability. We can all start doing this where we live, family by family, community by community.
Thanks Alex. Love the “rippling out into the world” phrase! That’s how it will happen.
Yes, while I have spent the last three years focusing on psychiatric and alternative treatments for kids suffering emotional distress and behavioral problems, I know this is a bigger issue. Someone who interviewed me on a radio show last week actually brought this up as well. I thought that was very perceptive. There are so many chronic illnesses that I believe would also diminish if we created a society designed to optimize mental health, because it all goes together! I am not fundamentally anti medication, but I do believe that having a profit-based medical system is completely unethical. Health care should be about individual people’s best interest, not the bottom line.
It has certainly crossed my mind to send a copy of my book to several of Rebecka’s psychiatrists—and now this article. My guess is that they don’t often hear these type of “success stories,” because families such as ours want to stay far, far away. I will give it some more thought. I honestly have no idea what the response would be. I would hope that it would at least plant a seed that there is a different way.
Thank you Nancy. It’s always great to hear from practitioners working to help others in this area. Definitely helps to have people like you working within the system focusing on individuals vs. cookiecutter approaches.
Absolutely. There are so many layers here. The resilience piece to me is an intermediate step in an evolution of creating a society designed to optimize mental health. When I think about resilience as something we want to have, it’s to deal with situations that will always happen such as difficult breakups and deaths of loved ones. I hope that one day we will have created a society that minimizes much of the trauma our kids experience today. I don’t think think of resilience as suppressing “bad things that cause suffering,” but it sure helps folks while we work on creating a better society.
You hit the nail right on the head. Thank you. When I emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden 20 years ago, I was shocked to learn that there was no paid maternity. I was even more shocked when I started my first job and my salary was $6.75/hour caring for young children at the most important time of their lives (I worked at a daycare center). Imagine my subsequent surprise when I found out I got exactly two weeks of vacation. What? (I took unpaid leave so I could get more time off.) Then after I completed my college degree and started working in the corporate world, I was surprised to learn that I was expected to work a minimum of 45 hours of billable hours per week and still just got two weeks of vacation. Over time, sadly, this became my new normal. I supposed I surrendered to societal norms. It took a family crisis for me to wake up and realize (again) that it’s all wrong. And I do think we have the power to change things if we unite, stop talking so much about the problems, and start working on—and demanding—solutions.
Thanks for sharing your mixed feelings. I would never tell a caring parent that they don’t know what’s best for their child. The reason I had to write the book was that we only heard the story you’re telling. We didn’t hear the other side—that medication can ruin lives. And I appreciate you saying that it’s important all voices are heard. I also think our differences of opinions on what is the best treatment option (which depends on the person) can distract us from the bigger issue, that we need social change on many levels to improve our collective mental health. That is where I hope to focus my efforts going forward. Again, thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your perspective.
Richard, thanks for your encouragement! All we can do is plant seeds and hope for the best…
Hi Dan, I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience. And we do feel extremely fortunate. We realize that many parents in the same situation do not have the means to do what we did. They may not have the luxury of taking leave of absence, which I did, to care for their child or health insurance to try alternative approaches. It saddens me to think about it. This is why I’m interested in getting at the problem at its root and working in parallel on building resilience in kids right now and working toward a healthier society. I believe it’s the only way!
Thanks for your encouragement. Hang in there!
Thanks for commenting. Very interesting observation on your part. I think what all of the discussion around these topics show is that there is so much we don’t know about mental health. What we do know is that trauma negatively affects mental and physical health outcomes. We also know that resilience can help improve the outcomes. That’s why I’m really interested in working with kids in schools and with parents to teach skills that build resilience. I’m also interested in building resilient communities. This doesn’t mean we’ll always be happy, but maybe we’ll be better equipped to cope with life.
Hi Niklet, yes, there are certainly exceptions. I write about some of these holistic psychiatrists in my book. I’m so glad you’ve found these healers! Regarding capitalism, there are certainly lots of people who believe we can work within the capitalistic system to make improvements toward equality, sustainability, etc. (Robert Reich and Muhammad Yunus come to mind). However, I’m not convinced. I believe we need an alternate, more advanced economic model. At the very least, we need to disconnect things like medical care/pharmaceuticals from the profit-based model. It’s not ethical.
Thanks for your comment. I do say in my book that medication may be necessary for some kids. However, I wonder how much of it is necessary because we live in a toxic environment. It doesn’t necessarily be the immediate environment (e.g. family, school, etc.), but just the general malaise in our culture. What I’m interested in is what we can do to improve our society to improve our mental health for future generations. I appreciate you bringing that balance to the conversation.
Absolutely! It didn’t even cross our minds to ask ourselves these questions. We were so embedded in the dominant discourse on mental health that says that emotional distress is a chemical imbalance and the best way to treat it is with drugs. In fact, one of Rebecka’s psychiatrists (one of our favorites) said, “I would never take anybody off Prozac, it only does good things for your brain.” He was embedded as well! Yes, let’s spread the word that emotional distress is part of the human experience, not an illness to be cured with medication.
Thanks for your note. The best part of this whole experience is to be able to share our story of hope with other families (something we didn’t hear). I’m so glad you’re on your way toward health.
Thank you for sharing your own struggles. It’s amazing how many folks have had similar experiences, but you don’t hear about it until you start sharing your own story. When you’re in the middle of it, you feel so alone and you don’t really know what to do other than trust the people society has put in charge of caring for your child.
We also had to pull Rebecka out of school for a bit so she could stabilize. School was a huge stressor. I have a whole chapter about how we need to do education differently to optimize kids’ mental health. Our one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work one bit. All the best to you and your son as you continue your journey toward health.
Awesome comment. 🙂 I am with you 100%. It’s too bad that it took a crisis for me to realize what needs to be done, but now it’s crystal clear. Capitalism needs to be abolished, corporations need to be disbanded, and we need to take a big step back and take a look at how the heck we *really* want to live on this beautiful planet. I’m very excited about moving forward in my own neck of the woods and working toward creating a resilient, sustainable community. I’m done talking about problems—I’m ready to make positive changes. (And I will definitely read some Szasz.)
Thanks Norman. We feel so fortunate that we “got out” when we did. I hope this book will empower other parents and caregivers to start asking questions and advocate for their children’s health. It took me a while to see the social connection, but in hindsight it is glaringly obvious. The research for Her Lost Year has convinced me that social change is required to ease the suffering of our kids and teens. It won’t be easy, but I am hopeful that we can do it!
Alesandra, thanks for your compassionate response. I agree that grassroots is the way to go to enact change. I’m working with a small group of parents and educators in my little town to start making some changes to promote mental health in the schools and give teachers and kids tools to manage emotions, stress, etc. So far, there’s been zero resistance. Very exciting!
I’m working on introducing mindfulness is the schools in my area. I think this is a step in the right direction.
Alesandra, thank you for sharing your story, and for what you’re doing to help others.
“Polypharmacy, or the use of multiple medications, is a common occurrence and too often a combination of drugs can cause additional side effects that are then treated with more drugs. It’s a vicious and dangerous cycle.”
I agree this is one of the key problems. I almost lost my daughter to polypharmacy, and last year I lost my best friend to a bad combination of prescription drugs, including psychotropics (he was 34 years old). I think of him every time I hear a similar celebrity story. It makes me wonder how many non-celebrity deaths due to polypharmacy there are to every celebrity death.
As I have pondered what I could have done to prevent my friends death (I am a health coach, after all!), I have realized to your final point that people have to want to do the work to be well. They’ve got to find the time to move their bodies and eat real, nutritious food. (And manage their stress and have social connections, etc.)
I think our real hope as a society is to encourage kids to take care of their bodies and their minds and their spirits and hope that eventually, we will see a cultural shift away from medication and mental distress toward healthy lifestyles and mental health.