Psychiatric diagnoses for three year olds?

Our government has decided to invest eleven million dollars over the next five years in mental illness checks for three-year olds.

“THREE-YEAR-OLDS will be screened for early signs of mental illness in a new federal government program that uses behaviours such as sleeping with the light on, having temper tantrums or extreme shyness as signs of possible psychological problems.” ¹

Three year olds for goodness sake…

Okay so I’ve choked on my coffee, said words no woman should even know, face-palmed, cried out to the gods and now that my blood pressures come back to what it ought to be will try to articulate why this plan is beyond atrocious.

Firstly there is the unreliability of psychiatric diagnosis. But don’t just take my word for it. Professor Allen Frances, an Emeritus Professor at the Duke University and one of the most influential psychiatrists in the United States describes this idea as ridiculous also pointing to the unreliability of diagnosis.

“My experience is that the hardest diagnoses in our field are in the youngest children,” he said.

“Kids have developmental changes that are dramatic in a very short period of time. So, I would be the most cautious in doing anything psychiatrically with very young children.”

“Parallel to that, the most adventurous of all the diagnosticians in psychiatry, are the child psychiatrists.” ²

Secondly, anyone who as ever had anything to do with the psychiatric system understand the incredibly negative impact that labelling has on the individual. Indeed it would be fair to say that anyone who cops any label whatsoever in life understands how the label creates barriers that become so large escape is nigh on impossible. Consider the implications if this starts at the age of three!

Thirdly, as a person who worked in psychiatry for many years I can also say that the majority of difficult behaviours in children are the direct result of abuse and/or neglect (intentional or otherwise) by the adults surrounding that child. Not only has research proved that at least sixty percent of people experiencing psychiatric illness have experienced abuse in their younger years but when it comes to children and adolescents, again and again I have experienced parents bringing them to health services complaining of certain behaviours. Upon assessment it becomes clear that changes in parenting styles and life styles would mean the child would no longer need to behave in disruptive ways. However when the parents were given this information the most common response was

“…but can’t you give him something to settle him down.”

And fourthly, related to the unreliability of diagnosis is what I believe to be the ridiculous power and the corruption of psychiatry as a whole. Globally in order to diagnose someone with a mental illness The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used. The first edition of this manual was released in 1952, had 130 pages and contained approximately sixty broad diagnoses. The most recent edition has 900 pages and has more than 300 disorders with many having their criteria reduced.

Professor Allen Frances is also critical of the latest DSM warning that it will “medicalise normality”. He also says the manual is expanding the boundaries of psychiatry at the expense of the shrinking realm of normal. The problem with this as he points out ;

“And policy decisions, in Australia for instance, for the whole country may be determined by what’s in the manual, what’s not in the Manual.” Folks please consider that point.

What is the corruption I spoke of? The corruption lies in the marriage between psychiatry and pharmacology:

“The broadening definition of mental illness has been a boon for the pharmaceutical industry, with the global psychiatric drug market now worth $80 billion a year, and tipped to climb to $88 billion by 2015.”³

Once upon a time for example if you lost your loved one ‘bereavement’ excluded you from the diagnosis of major depression despite the symptoms looking similar. This exclusion has been removed and now grief is considered a psychiatric disorder if you spend more than a week in acute discomfort. No really. If you are in acute distress over the loss of your life partner or perhaps your child for more than four to five days you clearly need an antidepressant!

So parents, I beg you, please don’t take your three-year olds to be checked for mental illness. The diagnostic manual is created by the American Psychiatric Association who like most doctors now are wined and dined and given gorgeous gifts by the pharmaceutical companies. I am not saying they are all corrupt. But I have witnessed this bribery as well as this ‘need to diagnose’ mania that means if you are not going to work every day, if you are not happy in this lovely society of ours, if you are not sitting still listening to your teachers feed you all you must know for hours on end, if you are not cheerily spending most of your life at work, if you are not a compliant citizen…

…then clearly you are mentally ill. Capitalist societies intent on continual growth (of money…nothing else) does not need people questioning their lives, their happiness, their realities. Drugs fix that.

Yes I do understand that children are demanding and their behaviours can often drive us nuts. I also understand that diet can seriously impact on behaviour and that the financial demands on parents mean less time to connect with kids. And folks kids need connection. And yes, in rare cases a child certainly may have a disorder that can be assisted by psychiatry. But again as Professor Frances states;

“There’s absolutely no evidence at all that we can predict accurately who will go on to have a mental disorder,” he said.

“There can be lots of unintended negative consequences to labelling children who essentially are normal and will grow out of whatever problem they have at that moment.”

And in my personal experience good parenting skills, daily true connection will help whereas psychiatric treatment subdues but never truly helps and instead creates physical and psychological problems that will continue for a life time.

Please parents…don’t let your three-year old be diagnosed. And for all of us …do we really want this bunch of very rich psychiatrists dictating what is ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ with governments using their opinions to set policies and the consequential drugging that follows?

I know I don’t.





9 thoughts on “Psychiatric diagnoses for three year olds?

  1. Pingback: Psychiatric Diagnosis for Three Year Olds? | Reflections from Beit-Shalom

  2. ” The corruption lies in the marriage between psychiatry and pharmacology.” Said it all really. You cry out Leesa, this is plain dangerous.

  3. Hi love, You are right on with the idea that psychiatrists are very over rated. The best help a person with mental illness can get is through a relationship with an aware person.

  4. Pingback: Grief or ‘Persistent Complex Bereavement-Related Disorder’ | ahmrita natural mental health

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