Underprivileged and Overmedicated

December 30, 2014

"Drugging our Kids" is deserving of all of our attention, says this psychiatrist.

Karen de SÃ¥, an investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News (CA), in four print articles and one 40-minute film produced by photojournalist Dai Sugano, has documented in impossible-to-ignore detail the systemic neglect of the neediest of needy children and adolescents in California, and very likely elsewhere. At a minimum, these most needy children include children with family difficulties, children in foster care, children who have experienced trauma (in multiple forms), children with a mental illness, children who are mostly underprivileged, often from minority backgrounds, and (unfortunately) children who are believed to be receiving adequate psychiatric treatment simply because they are receiving psychiatric medication. In the course of their research, the author and her colleagues reviewed ten years of data on psychotropic medication utilization in the California foster care system.

In this series, “Drugging Our Kids,” Ms de SÃ¥ introduces the reader (and viewer) to several resilient young adults who, as children, were in the California foster care system, and who in that system had been treated with numerous psychotropic medications, mostly concurrently, until interventions by conscientious psychiatrists literally changed the course of their lives. The author and her colleagues spent an entire year developing this documentary. It is deserving of all of our attention. It is deserving, in my opinion, of a Pulitzer Prize.

These are the children about whom the Child Guidance Movement began in Chicago in 1909, and for whom the profession of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was born. What happened to the ethos of the early 20th century when reform minded citizens, judges, and mental health professionals insisted that our society be cognizant of the plight of such children and families? What happens now if we do nothing? Who are we if we let this continue?

Ms de SÃ¥ and the San Jose Mercury News may have forced us to look up from our "Smart Phones" and glance in the mirror. Can we live with the reflection?