If You Don’t Get Your Kids The Psychiatric Care They Need, You Fail

depressed-teen-girlWhen my doctor told me I might have adult ADD, I laughed in his face.

“Take the meds,” he said, ripping the prescription off of the pad, “tell me how you feel in a month.”

I took them, wincingly, expecting it to be bullshit. I waited for evil things to happen. What I found instead is that I can suddenly do things that I never imagined doing: our bills are paid on time, I no longer promise to do things and then break those promises because I become overwhelmed by them and watch TV all day instead, I can write without being gripped by the sudden urge to hyper-focus on all of the dust on the blinds. I can function. I am converted.

When I tell people that I take Ritalin, they usually don’t believe me. Ritalin is for kids, they say, or they launch into a lecture about how ADD is fake quackery and bullshit. If it was legit, why did it take me so long to get a diagnosis?

The answer to that is simple: in my family, we were not allowed as children, to take psychiatric medication or even see a therapist. It took me 26 years to get a diagnosis, and that actually kind of pisses me off.

I hadn’t raged about this for awhile, until I was watching Extreme Guide To Parenting and watching Shira wax philosophic about the dangers of meds and the quackery of shrinks. I think this is wholly irresponsible.

I have two brothers. After some court-ordered counseling, one was prescribed Risperidone, an antipsychotic, the other was prescribed Bupropion, an anti-depressant. My mother flushed both down the toilet, and without telling stories that are not mine to tell, I can at least say that in both cases, this proved to be catastrophic. In one case, we are extremely lucky that it didn’t end in tragedy. It almost did. Twice.

I hear all of the time that there is a tendency to over-diagnose. Maybe ADD is less prevalent than the high rates of diagnosis indicate. Perhaps not every teenager is depressed. People complain all of the time that as a whole, society is over-medicated because we don’t want to deal with hard things. I don’t know how much of that is true. But I’ve seen firsthand what happens when it isn’t.

Someone with depression does not have a flaw in their outlook on life. They have a flaw in their brain chemistry. When it grips them, they can not force themselves to be happy. They can not eat ice cream and watch movies and feel better. It can be deadly, and yes, children can be depressed.

I didn’t believe that I had ADD because I didn’t believe that ADD was a real thing. Like a lot of people, I assumed that Big Pharma just wanted all the money we schlubs could be scammed into giving them. I believed this of all psychiatric medication, because I was raised with this as the gospel truth.

When I see parents say that you can “cure” disorders like ADD and even depression with the right diet or by cutting out food dyes or by using aromatherapy or by wishing it away, I get angry. I am thrilled for every person who feels better through crystal healing or yoga or through the use of a therapy dolphin. I really, really am.

But for some people, that’s not enough. For some people, our brain chemistry is just so janked up and wacky that a little shove in the other direction solves the problem. Sometimes the most we can hope for is that it will help even a little. Telling them they just aren’t trying hard enough to heal themselves is some straight up uncool bullshit and is totally butts.

If your kid needs help, give it to them. Don’t bet their lives on what you assume is true or because you went to the University of St. Google and think you know better. I rarely take a hard stance on parenting issues, but this is definitely one of them: if you don’t get your kids the psychiatric care they need, you fail.

(Image: MitarArt/Shutterstock)

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