A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Medication, Children, and Mental Health – Not So Simple

Medication, Children, and Mental Health – Not So Simple

September 2, 2010

The New York Times recently published a disturbing article about children with significant mental health needs who were dramatically overmedicated by physicians.

To be clear: the Children’s Mental Health Campaign does not support over-medicating children. No one believes the solution to mental health issues is creating obese, zombie-like children who are at risk of serious medical conditions like diabetes. The Campaign strongly believes in appropriate treatment to address the specific mental health needs of young people.

It is perhaps too easy to conclude from the stories in this article that medication is never the answer for children struggling with mental illness. Such a stance, however, ignores the experiences of literally thousands of families across the country – including many here in Massachusetts. The fact is that medication is often very helpful in addressing the mental health needs of children. That’s not me talking – it reflects the comments of parents in responding to inquiries by the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, a state-wide organization of parents of children with mental health needs.

In June 2008, PAL released a report (pdf) on the attitudes toward and experiences with mental health medications by families impacted by mental illness. Interestingly, PAL found that one of the most effective tools that parents found for addressing the mental health needs of their children was medication.

For families of children with mental health needs, all options should be available to them. It would be a mistake to demonize medication. While clearly medications should be used judiciously, treating mental illness is too important to take a tool that works off the table.
-Matt Noyes