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We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication Hardcover – February 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The author wanted to write a condemnation of American parents for hysterically spotting mental disorders where there are none. When she began interviewing parents and mental-health professionals, however, she reversed her position. Only five percent of American children take psychotropic drugs, she writes, yet that many suffer from extreme mental illness, while another 15 percent endure at least minimal illness. Not only has Warner never met a parent who lunged for the medicine cabinet to dope up their kids, but some fought the medication route as long as they could, to the detriment of their child. It's true that antidepressant prescriptions for children have skyrocketed, but that's because primitive understanding of the brain left many sick children undiagnosed in the past; we now have more effective drugs for some illnesses; and the stigma of mental illness is blessedly diminished. Warner cites research that girls, minority children and those with less-educated parents are undertreated for ADHD. Careful reporter that she is, the author acknowledges that some experts might dispute parts of her thesis. Other signs of childhood trauma-teen pregnancy, school violence, crime, substance abuse and suicide-have declined, and Warner reports special professional skepticism about exploding rates of bipolar diagnoses in children. Meanwhile, too many laypeople are spooked by drug companies' ads plugging their latest products, which doctors might not recommend. Curtailing those ads and more insurance coverage for pediatric mental-health screenings are among the author's welcome common-sense proposals.
Parents of mentally ill children will find this tonic reassuring, while all parents will find it a valuable reminder that it's not poor parenting to seek medical help for your children.
"Warner, New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, set out to write a follow-up volume exposing what she believed were capricious diagnoses and medication of children's mental and learning disorders. Instead, she fell down the rabbit hole to an alternative reality. Although she found the stereotype of pushy parents who shop for prescriptions or educational accommodations to fit their overscheduled children, Warner's heartbreaking conversations with pediatricians and the parents of children with mental issues such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, serious depression, or bipolar disorders led her to see beyond her prejudices. As Warner passionately writes, appropriate care for childhood mental illness, if possible, is not necessarily probable. The perceived stigma of mental illness, deep-rooted suspicions of the medical and educational establishments, and, above all, merciless economic factors deny a shocking number of children with learning or mental disabilities the care and medications they need to succeed in school and society. Parents, social workers, and educators will find Warner's compelling study troubling but enlightening. Highly recommended.
"This is a groundbreaking, thoughtfully argued book. My experience with families in the consulting room supports Judith Warner's nuanced argument exactly. The myth perpetrated by a breathless news media is fals: In reality, parents don't want to medicate their children. And every one of us has family members and friends (or ourselves!) who could have led richer, less anguished lives had they been given appropriate medication during childhood for learning or emotional problems."
-Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee
"This is an important book, a landmark book, a triumph of honesty over bigotry and of patient learning over the the rush to judgement. I see every day in my office the awful, preventable damage done by zealots and reductionistic 'thinking'. Judith Warner rejects the panicky sound-bites that have plagued the discussion of children's mental health for the complexity of truth. She brings to all who read her book the resoundingly good and hopeful news of how much we have learned over the past few decades, how trasforming the best help can be, and how all children can turn into responsible, joyful adults. We owe her a huge debt."
-Edward Hallowell, M.D., co-author of Super Parenting for ADD and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness
"Readers love Judith Warner because she is open, honest, attuned, and curious. In We've Got Issues, Warner considers children and psychotherapeutic medicine: whether drug companies hold too much sway, whether doctors over-prescribe, but also whether troubled boys and girls might sometimes need more help than they get today. The result is a caring and informed book that will earn the trust and loyalty of a wide audience."
-Peter D. Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
As an engineer, I love that Warner actually researched the topic, and allowed the evidence to influence her thinking. I also appreciated that she has such an extensive reference list, over 50 pages for those who want to learn more. As a reader, I appreciated the well written style of the book. But, as a therapist, I thought the conclusions were too simply stated, and the conversational, anecdotal tone was relied on so much it interfered with a more rigorous analysis.
Surely, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Some parents hover, expect too much from their kids, and pathologize normal behavior. Other parents, certainly the overwhelming majority of the families I've seen, are dealing with kids who are clearly struggling, kids who have evident difficulties, and their parents allow medication and diagnosis only with caution and reluctance. But the way to illustrate this truth is through facts and data, and too often Warner relies on examples and stories from the families she's interviewed. A compelling read, no doubt, but ironic in that Warner is criticizing the very type of research-by-anecdotal-evidence that she's using here.Read more ›
I agree with another reviewer that the material in the book is not revolutionary. Warner writes:
"Most of those who need mental health services don't get any care at all. Too much power and influence has been given to drug makers, rendering the science the public relies upon for information highly unreliable. Too much stigma remains. We tend to believe that, today, we have moved beyond the age-old prejudices against people with mental illness. But, in fact, that prejudice is alive and well in our time and has a new and socially acceptable face: it expresses itself in the eye-rolling laments about "pushy parents" and "drugged-up kids."
In 2005, Peter Kramer made the exact same points in his book "Against Depression."
But Warner, who writes principally for intelligent moms (she's the author of a great book about motherhood, and is also a former NY Times columnist), takes the message closer to home. The first part of the book -- where she tells about how the book came to be written -- is especially persuasive.
Parents would be wise to pick up a copy of Judith Warner's book, read through the research she presents, and begin to face their fears about mental health issues in their own families and schools. It would do a world of good.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My daughter is dyslexic and ADD, and we have struggled for many years to bring her to an acceptable level in school. Read morePublished on January 20, 2013 by Mme L
Thank you for this book. I'm sorry Bookgirl, reading medical records all day long is not the same as seeing and working with a child too distracted to even hear his or her name... Read morePublished on January 16, 2013 by garyd
It's a bunch of garbage about why all kids with behavioral issues or developmental delays should be on prosac or ritalin or both! Read morePublished on September 1, 2012 by TypicalJewishMother
Thank goodness someone had the courage and rigor to look closely at the roots of the current "anti-psychiatry, anti-medication, anti-mental health issues" cultural bias. Read morePublished on February 16, 2012 by jkdm
This is a really refreshing and well researched book. It acknowledges and describes in detail the complexity of the issues at hand in a way that much of the public and the media... Read morePublished on January 4, 2012 by A Keen Reader
This book is not based on any actual data. I read medical records all day long, and here's what I see: A mother brings in her kid and tells the doctor that her kid won't sit still... Read morePublished on November 5, 2011 by Bookgirl
The book's a nice discussion peice, but just anecdote after anecdote. Mostly it's Warner being apologetic for "Perfect Madness". Read morePublished on May 24, 2011 by Janice-Bennett
I am not a parent who has the unique challenge of raising a child with mental illness. My best friend, who has a small child that has been through a gauntlet of testing,... Read morePublished on November 22, 2010 by The Dol