Last night I was watching (read: TV in the background while I was online) this show on Channel 10 called Nurse Jackie. It’s sort of like House except with a little more feeling. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the show or review it.
The episode yesterday had a bit on Jackie’s daughter, a 7 or 9 year old (wasn’t paying close attention) and how the little girl suffers from possible generalised anxiety disorder. This is identified at school by the teacher and the school counsellor. One of the shocking methods of identification included the girl’s teacher saying how the girl’s drawing didn’t have bright colours. I’m sorry, but that’s not a method of identifying if a child has a problem. On the other hand, the second example they gave for suspecting her anxiety was better — the girl circled her desk 3 times before being seated to prevent the planes from falling. Fair enough. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and go with the flow.
But no. The next thing that happens is the counsellor/nurse and the teacher tell Nurse Jackie and her husband that they should take this little child aged 7 or 9 to a psychiatrist for a diagnosis (fair enough) and get her put on medication. Medication! For a 7 year old! For anxiety!
I’m sure there’s going to be several people saying: “What about ADHD?” Medication for ADHD is required because the cause is medical…it’s a neurobiological issue and therefore needs medication to manage along with behaviour management.
Anxiety on the other hand, is psychological. And there are evidence-based therapies (including cognitive-behaviour therapy) that help manage the same. Especially when it’s a child, it would be more beneficial to intervene through therapy and provide them with these skills which can last a lifetime. When are these shows going to understand that medication makes a person dependent? Research for depression also shows that you need therapy in addition to medication for effectiveness. And the relapse rates are lower for those who undergo therapy (CBT) than those who only take medication.
Going back to purely medicating kids — what does it teach a child? It teaches them that they have no control over their thoughts and feelings and hence need to be medicated. Which is complete bull in the case of anxiety disorders and depression. It doesn’t provide them with skills for the future. The medication is not going to make the anxiety or depression go away. It’s not the flu. Once the medication ceases, it is going to recur unless they have skills to manage.
I think shows like this promote the wrong idea. It would be more beneficial to promote therapy, especially given the stigma that still seems to exist around it. But therapy first is how I would go. And only if there seems to be no change after a certain number of sessions would I recommend medication. So yeah, I’m not completely against medication. I have asked some clients to get assessed by a psychiatrist to see whether they should be medicated but these clients are aged 16 or older and they are really, really depressed that they cannot even do some of the work set out for them in therapy. The medication is more of a boost to get them to learn the skills in therapy.
Not something to depend upon.
Until next time,