Bipolar in Kids: The Boston Globe Goes Antipsychiatrist

John McManamy Health Guide
  • The media is unconscionably recycling yet more misinformation on bipolar children and their treatment. This time the culprit is the Boston Globe, which on June 17 ran a front page news piece by reporter Scott Allen that cited the ravings of an old anti-ADHD zealot as valid medical opinion.


    Speaking of ADHD, here is a brief history lesson:


    In Oct 2000, in my Newsletter, I reported that a Congressional House subcommittee convened by Bo Schaffer (R-CO) and chaired by Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) staged a show-hearing featuring two prominent antipsychiatry witnesses who asserted that kids were being medicated for an illness that did not exist, namely ADHD. According to my report:

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    “Dr Peter Breggin, who has achieved celebrity status for his opposition to Prozac and Ritalin, stated that all kids need is ‘discipline and better instruction.’ He went on to say that ADHD is not an illness, just normal child behavior.”


    Meanwhile: “Fred Baughman MD. described in a subcommittee press release as a
    neurologist who studied ‘real, bona fide diseases,’ called both ADHD and mental
    illness ‘a neuro-biological lie.’”


    Chairman Hoekstra gave the Congressional seal of approval to this farce by declaring: "There is no professional consensus between professionals about the origin and nature of ADHD,” and that “our nation is over-prescribing drugs to treat whatever ADHD is."


    Significantly, the hearing coincided with the announcement of an antipsychiatry lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp, makers of Ritalin, alleging that the company had conspired with the American Psychiatric Association to create a "novel medical disorder" to fuel demand for the drug. The suit, which was cited with approval in a Scientology booklet, later got thrown out.


    The committee did not see fit to call the US Surgeon General, David Satcher MD, who at the time was preparing a report on mental health in children. In that report, issued a few months after the hearing, Dr Satcher noted:

    “Many children have mental health problems that interfere with normal development and functioning. In the United States, one in ten children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment … Children and families are suffering because of missed opportunities for prevention and early identification, fragmented treatment services, and low priorities for resources."

    With a foresight I can only describe as frightening, I noted in an article I wrote from that time:


    “Keep in mind that ADHD is a proxy for depression, bipolar, and other mental illnesses children suffer from. Until fairly recently, it was assumed that children's minds were not mature enough to break out in clinical depression, and even now a fairly large percentage of the psychiatric profession refuses to believe that bipolar can take its toll on our sons and daughters.”


    These days, there is now strong consensus in the psychiatric profession on the validity of bipolar in children, though there is legitimate debate over the criteria that should be used in making a diagnostic call. The denials within the profession are largely restricted to the likes of the old anti-ADHD zealots.


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    But your average reporter for a daily newspaper does not know this. Hence this example of execrable journalism from the Boston Globe, directed at Harvard child bipolar expert Joeseph Biederman MD, virtually indistinguishable from a Scientology tract:


    “Biederman's critics chide him for not speaking out against misuses of a diagnosis that he has helped inspire. Among leading authorities on bipolar disorder, the Mass General team has proposed the most aggressive treatment for the broadest group of children, they say, and Biederman should take responsibility when treatment goes wrong.


    “At a conference on bipolar disorder at Pittsburgh's Point Park University [sic] last weekend, one speaker, Dr. Lawrence Diller, a California behavioral pediatrician, contended that Biederman bears some blame for Riley's death. “


    "’I find Biederman and his group to be morally responsible in part,’ said Diller, whose popular book, ‘Running on Ritalin,’ accused psychiatrists of over treating another childhood condition, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 'He didn't write the prescription, but he provided all the, quote, scientific justification to address a public health issue by drugging little kids.'"


    The article also takes Dr Biederman to task for accepting - heaven forbid – research funding from drug companies. The implication is that child bipolar is a drug company plot.


    The antipsychiatrists, of course, have been recycling the story as authority, one account which describes Dr Biederman as a “psychiatric monster.”


    The real monsters, of course, are the antipsychiatrists, who fed a naïve (this is only his first piece on child bipolar) Boston Globe reporter the story in the first place and who need to be held accountable for the misinformation they spread, and for its tragic consequences.


    To return once more to a rational voice, that of the Surgeon General, from his 2001 report


    "Approximately 50 percent of students labeled [with emotional or behavioral disorders] drop out of school; only 42 percent of those who remain graduate with a diploma. Post secondary outcomes are also poor, including multiple jobs, criminal behavior, and unemployment."


    Dr Biederman, at least, is working on solutions. From the antipsychiatrists it's nothing but same old-same old.

Published On: June 19, 2007