This video from Mercury News is the most comprehensive and powerful discussion I have seen on the topic of forcing abused and neglected children to take psychotropic medications. Remember, state ward children have no voice in this discussion. These decisions are made for them by a closed system that rarely shares information and by and large fears discussion on the topic of mental health.
These children’s stories mirror my experience as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem in child protection services and make me wonder how it is possible that this topic still remains under the radar.
Drugging decisions are made often because of fear and cost*, not effectiveness. The traumas of child abuse can be dealt with if met head on and early but spiral into dysfunctional lifestyles if left untreated. 80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives.
Using powerful mind altering pills might stop the short term dangerous behaviors of abused children, but it is most often counterproductive to the long term development of the child. People need to cope with their environment, not be medicated to live in it.
From where I stand, between 1/3 and 2/3 of children in America’s CPS are forced to take pyschotropic medications, and about 2/3 of the youth in juvenile justice take them (half of them have multiple, chronic, and severe mental health diagnosis).
To calculate the long term costs of psychotropically medicating millions of American children we should include the expense of giant prison populations, 70% recidivism rates (the nation average), failing schools (no longer are we a leader among nations in graduation rates or test taking – children with mental health issues don’t do well in school), between 1 & 1.6 trillion dollars the insurance companies pay out for the cost of crime in this nation each year, and add some number for the cost of unlivable inner cities where crime, drugs, and violence are endemic. Of course, if one of the assaulted, robbed, or murdered victims was known to you, the cost would be significantly higher.
I’ve written about the 7 year old foster boy who hung himself and left a note about Prozac, the 4 year old CASA girl that I visited in the suicide ward at Fairview hospital, Judge Heidi Schellhas sharing her list of 4,5, 6 and ten year old children in her courtroom proscribed psychotropic meds, suicidal ideation, and the experiences I have had with children in my caseload.
This video is a must view for anyone in the system that wants a better understanding of the impact of these drugs. It does not include suicidal ideation conversation, and that is a mistake as suicidal ideation is a common side effect of these drugs. Think about what it must be like for a five year old to experience uncontrollable fully formed thoughts of killing herself.
*I understand the need to have an answer for the five year old trying to kill herself in your presence – it is important that the drugs be available, only, not “just the drugs” – children deserve more.
Thank you Karen de Sa , Mike Frankel, and Mercury News.