Last night I arrived home from a conference just in time to catch Katie Couric being as stupid as Oprah.
Readers will recall that Oprah devoted an entire show to bipolar, nearly half which featured a mom who killed her six-year-old son while in a psychotic state. (See my recent blog.) Then she talked to an actor and an actress for the rest of the show, and sandwiched Kay Jamison in the middle for two minutes, plus a very quick wrap-up.
Watch out for people with bipolar, was Oprah's message. People with bipolar kill their kids. She used the word, crazy, more than once.
"Sixty Minutes" would never stoop to such levels, I thought. They set the standard for TV investigative journalism.
"What Killed Rebecca Riley?" read the magazine set behind Katie Couric.
"On Dec. 13, last year," Ms Couric intoned, "police responded to a 911 call and found a little girl lying dead on the floor next to her parents' bed."
Katie Couric continued: "The autopsy revealed that she had died from an overdose of psychiatric drugs. Rebecca Riley was being treated for bipolar disorder, or manic depression, even though she was just four years old."
The New York Times broke this story in February of this year. Other media outlets picked up on the story, while antipsychiatry bloggers chortled with glee.
Some background: For years, parents of kids with bipolar have been fighting battles reminiscent of the first generation of NAMI parents. Back in the bad old days, psychiatrists blamed schizophrenia on bad parenting. Mothers were simultaneously lectured to love their kids more and discipline their kids more. Then the schizophrenia would go away.
Parents of bipolar kids have been getting the same treatment. Recently, thanks to books such as "The Bipolar Child," and the establishment of organizations such as the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, parents have been able to make headway with their clinicians and the school system. Many of these kids, and their families, now have hope in their lives.
Thanks to the sensationalism surrounding the Rebecca Riley tragedy, however, we now see the revival of stupid talk about child bipolar being a fad diagnosis, and that it is overdiagnosed. Worse, so-called pundits are claiming that what is being called bipolar is just normal child behavior.
Is the following normal child behavior? (from "The Bipolar Child"):
"One day, after [mother] Melissa refused to buy him candy, Eric [kindergarten age] ran out of the grocery store and attempted to run across the street. A few times he attacked her - hitting, kicking, and biting. Once, when sent to his room for a time-out, he opened the second-story window, knocked out the screen, and threatened to jump. Later he told his mother he thought he could fly."
"Did you ever think," Katie Couric goaded the mother of Rebecca Riley, "'Well, she's two and a half years old.' There's this thing called the terrible 2's. Did you think this could, in fact, be normal?"