For approximately 20 of the past 30 years I have worked in mental health and education (sometimes concurrently) in four states. I can confirm, without a moments hesitation, that John Whitehead's column, "The Psycho-Therapeutic School System: Pathologizing Childhood" (MCN April 11) was precisely correct.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or, as I have come to believe, Adult Dysfunction - Handed Down, is increasingly over-diagnosed resulting in doctors over-prescribing powerful drugs for children and teens. John Whitehead accurately interprets what is occurring. Doctors are examining behaviors once accepted as normal demeanor for youth and labeling them symptoms of a disorder. Some believe teachers and parents are behind the upsurge in mental health services. Having labored for several agencies in four states, I am convinced that profit is the primary motivation.
One other matter deserves mention, parenting.
Americans have stopped raising their children as they once did. They lack basic parenting techniques that were common in previous generations. Also, more children are born to younger and often unwed mothers and economic demands have forced mothers into the work force and often working multiple jobs. The mental health industry (in alliance with pharmaceuticals) have taken full advantage of these conditions to create multi-billion dollar businesses first by branding and then substituting common childhood behaviors for mental health disorders requiring "treatment."
Please believe me, parenting (despite mental health and some educational professionals attempt to convince you otherwise) is not rocket science, honest. However, it does require a bit of common sense and a little more than a smidgeon of hard work. It increases an agency's bottom line when you believe you cannot raise your own children without their help and without drugs because their incentive to grow mental health, and other services, is revenue, nothing more, nothing less.
It's news to no one that if we cannot find a way to reign in health care costs our country is soon going to be in a lot of trouble. We don't have bad health care but we do have notably expensive health care. It was reported by The Christian Science Monitor that our nation spent $8,233 per person on medical care in 2010 - more than twice the average of other advanced economies, including Germany, Britain, Canada and Japan. I'm not sure this figure even includes the exorbitant mental health costs revealed by Whitehead.
The Monitor also asserts that health care costs account for 18 percent of our gross domestic product up from seven percent in 1970. The reason we spend so much more per capita than other countries is not because we have that many more services but because our prices are higher than anybody else's. Physicians' and nurses' salaries are high end salaries and hospital executive salaries are way above high end.
Entitlement spending increases yearly and Medicaid (which bears a substantial portion of the cost of perceived childhood diseases such as ADHD) is now a lifestyle for up to four generations of many American families. The shameful truth is, a large portion of U.S. health-care spending is wasteful and does nothing to improve the quality of care.
John Whitehead believes that if America could free itself of the stranglehold the pharmaceutical industry has on our medical community, our government and our schools, our problems would be reduced. I do agree with that. However, lobbyists and powerful special interests have purchased the loyalty of the United States Congress. The men and women we elected to represent us have long since abandoned interest in the common good and now render service only to their wealthy donors and equally well-heeled special interests. Resolving that problem supersedes all others.
David L. Snell — Dillsboro, N.C.