Monday, January 08, 2007

3348 A new epidemic among teens?

The Dec. 28 issue of New England Journal of Medicine (355:26) has a series of articles on mental illness in teens. Now, it's not that new diseases can't arise--afterall, when my grandmother was a child, virtually no one got polio. It became an epidemic in the 20th century because sanitation improved and children no longer had the harmless mild type. Still, as my class prepares for its 50th reunion next summer, I am sort of wondering why we students didn't see mental illness among our classmates (there were a few teachers I sort of wondered about, however). The lead article suggests the screening of all teens to catch the "silent epidemic of mental illness among teenagers" which is leaving them vulnerable to emotional, social, and academic impairments in later life.

I'm sure if my friends and I had had screening, that the usual anxieties about grades, or mood disorders from squabbles with parents, fatigue from bad schedules or bruised and broken hearts from dating, or poor social skills resulting in rejection by the "in-crowd" would have rated us off the charts for feelings of hopelessness and depression. And I didn't know a single person in my high school who had an eating disorder or a drug/alcohol problem to the extent that we began to see in the late 60s and early 70s. However, I think pharmacologic intervention for huge numbers of teens who might have otherwise passed through a phase of sadness or emptiness without medical help, is a pretty high price. We don't even know the long term results for adults. Does the phrase "follow the money" come to mind for anyone but me?

1 comment:

Susan said...

As much as I have benefitted from pharmocological intervention, I too have concerns about its use.

In my mind, there are times in life when you may need some pharm help, but not always.

Like when I was a kid, some of my problems were adhd but many were just plain adolescents. AND it is the same thing today!

My nine-year old's step mom showed her a chart of bipolar symptoms and asked her if she had any of them. Can you believe this. I think this is the kind of stuff that is going on now.

I still think kids need real good people in their lives to talk to: parents, pastors, older kids. It takes a lot to sort out mental illness and brain disorders from life in general.

My disordered eating came from a combination of too much intake of airbrushed models in teen magazines and "hyper" eating from adhd. What I needed was better friends and my mom making me eat regular meals. (If I snacked too much, she let me skip dinner and she probably shouldn't have.)

Even today, my psychiatrist said I'll be taking Concerta for the rest of my life. Well, I don't want anyone to take it away because it makes a HUGE difference in my life today. However, I'm glad that I haven't always taken it. I'm not so sure I will always need it. For me, it depends on my current life situation, and I think that is true of many "interventions".