The other day I read this post about mental health. The post itself was impactful enough, but it was reading the comments (and leaving a comment myself) that got me thinking about some things. And these things have been rolling around my head since reading the post.
One of these things has to do with the psychological effect of throwing meds at problems – or in this case, perceived problems.
It came up more than once in the comments of the aforementioned post, that these days in western civilization, many mental health issues are being approached with prescribing medications.
There are many reasons this can be a problem, and various situations that might determine just how much of a problem it is. One HUGE one is in the case of AD/HD. (I realize that ADD is no longer used as a diagnosis, but I still believe that it should be.)
My oldest, JD, was raised off and on by his great-grandparents until he came into our home at the age of 8. As a young child, he was what my mom would call “all boy.” He was very active and energetic, at times mischievous, and couldn’t focus on one thing for long periods of time. In my opinion – both as a parent and as an early childhood teacher – this is typical for small children in general, and often for boys.
At the age of FIVE, his great-grandmother took him to a psychiatrist and had him put on medication for ADHD. For five years he lived a drugged life – in which he STILL couldn’t concentrate or get schoolwork done, was classified as “special education” because he was diagnosed ADHD and was way behind in schoolwork, and continued to fall farther and farther behind not just in school but in general development.
When we adopted him, he was nine, and I began to wean him off the medication in favor of some natural alternatives. He began to do much better, but it quickly became obvious to me that being on medication for so long – along with the message he was being fed with each pill – had caused definite psychological damage.
You see, he had been constantly told, “You’re incapable. But it’s not your fault; you have ADHD.”
And the underlying message was, “You can’t. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
He was stripped of his self-control. So he quit trying.
Granted, the medication itself wasn’t the whole problem. However, it was the start of the problem. He never had hyperactivity disorder. He was a very typical boy who was put on medication for being a typical boy. Of course I hold his great-grandparents responsible; but SHAME ON THE PSYCHIATRIST who put a five year old boy on ADHD meds. He does struggle to concentrate; so I do believe he has some ADD, but I believe it was caused by unnecessary medication.
After being put on unnecessary drugs, the unnecessary reason for said drugs was then used as an excuse for his behavior. Talk about screwed up. And meds or not, if a child is constantly told they can’t, it won’t take them long to believe it. They will live up to your expectations. Every. Single. Time.
Why can’t we let kids be kids without having to “diagnose” them with something?
When kids struggle, why tell them they can’t? Why not say, “I know you’re having a really hard time with this. But I know you can do it! It might take you a little longer, or take some extra work, but that’s okay. You can!”
When kids have a hard time concentrating, why can’t we help them learn how to deal with this? Why not give them shorter periods of work time with brief breaks in between? Even just getting up to get a drink or a quick stretch does wonders for JD and helps him refocus when he returns to his desk.
He’s just starting his freshman year of high school, and he still has struggles. He struggles to concentrate, a physiological effect of the drugs; and he struggles to motivate himself to do things he doesn’t want to do, a psychological effect of being told he was incapable.
There are so many solutions to mental health issues that should be employed before medication. Why is medication one of the first things we often turn to, rather than the last?