A Stiff Dose of Nuance
OR Book Review: We’ve Got Issues by Judith Warner
It can be oh so easy to buy into a myth; to believe a half-truth; to accept a sound-bite as reality. Indeed, author Judith Warner set out to write a book about drug-company financed psychiatrists creating a nation of “mentally ill” children by putting normal kids on dangerous drugs. It was a popular headline in recent years. The funny thing is, once she started researching the book, Warner found the reality very different from the sensational headlines.
Children’s mental health issues are very real. If you’ve dealt with mental illness during your own childhood, or if you are the parent of a child who has suffered a mental illness, you already knew that. And now, readers of Warner’s very intelligent and meticulously-researched book We’ve Got Issues can know it as well. Warner conducts many, many interviews with parents, children and doctors and finds that contrary to the myth, anti-psychotic drugs are not being handed out casually. While there can be legitimate debate about some diagnoses, Warner did not encounter any children receiving medications who did not in fact clearly have serious mental health problems.
We’ve Got Issues also provides a history of mental health theory and practice, particularly in regard to childhood mental health issues. Until fairly recently psychiatrists did not believe that children could suffer from diseases like schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Most often mental health issues in children were viewed simply as “bad kids” or “juvenile delinquents” and the focus was on punishing them for their bad behavior rather than treating them for the illnesses they suffered. If you’ve read the headlines about psychiatrists and drug companies pushing drugs on “normal” children or if you’ve had experience with mental illness as a patient or as a parent, Judith Warner’s We’ve Got Issues is Highly Recommended.