We’ve Got Issues has been selected to receive the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s 2010 Outstanding Media Award for Science & Health Reporting.
In her more than twenty years as a journalist, Judith Warner — a former contributing columnist for the New York Times and special correspondent forNewsweek in Paris — has written about women’s issues, American society and culture, adulthood and child care, fatherhood, family leave, the politics of everyday life, and much more. Now the author of the New York Timesbestselling Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety offers a provocative and compelling report from inside many American homes where families are grappling with how to help children suffering from a host of disorders, including autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, Asperger’s disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, dyslexia, and more.
Written with a reporter’s eye, Warner’s new book, WE’VE GOT ISSUES: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication (Riverhead Books; February 23, 2010) explores how pervasive these disorders are today and shows how complex and painful a journey it can be for parents trying to make the right decisions, particularly in the face of the ongoing discussion in this country as to whether we are misdiagnosing our children with special needs and overprescribing medications to modify their behavior.
How many kids really have behavioral, emotional, and learning issues? What is the nature of those issues, and are they really epidemic? Why do they appear to be so greatly on the rise? Are they real? Are parents willing to “drug” their kids? And perhaps most significantly, how do the children themselves feel about it? What are their lives like? Warner answers these and many more questions in a book that reframes our most commonly held beliefs about children and parents struggling with mental health issues.
Warner’s starting point was a common preconception—that children are being overpathologized and overmedicated by anxious, neurotic parents and test result–driven schools that were demanding unrealistic levels of performance from kids. She found, however, once she began seriously researching her book, that this storyline didn’t hold: epidemiological studies didn’t indicate a widespread pattern of gross overdiagnosis or overmedication. Interviews and surveys didn’t indicate an avidity on the part of parents to “drug” their kids to enhance their performance and behavior. And the children receiving diagnoses and medication weren’t just “normal,” high-spirited kids who simply didn’t meet society’s unrealistic demands. They were, by and large, children who suffered, often enormously, and experienced serious limitations to how fully and well they could live their lives.
Drawing on extensive research and interviews with parents, child psychiatrists and psychologists, pediatricians, and other experts, Warner lays out the current scientific understandings of the disorders that affect millions of children each year. She shows what life is really like for parents and children struggling with these very real illnesses. And she shifts the focus of our attention beyond the hyped-up headlines and all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing, moralizing, and catastrophizing that too often dominate our discussions of children’s “issues,” and instead starts to articulate a new way to think more realistically, compassionately, and productively about and to help a very vulnerable population of kids and their parents.