Do You Have Adolescent Children? I Hope You’re Sitting Down

An epidemic of mental illness among adolescents!

Posted Dec 07, 2014

According to the latest statistics from the US government, in the years 2001-04, on a “lifetime” basis, half (49.5 percent) of all US adolescents aged 13 to 18 have a “mental health disorder.”

Didn’t you just know it.

And 22.2 percent of them have a “disorder with serious impairment.” The statistics are further broken down by type of disorder: 14.3 percent have a mood disorder, a whopping 31.9 percent an anxiety disorder; and a further 19.6 percent “any behavior disorder.”

These statistics are so high that they are either evidence of a national mental health crisis among adolescents, or a sign of a diagnostic sausage-machine that is now churning out of control.

When you break the figures down by sex, girls come across as flighty, moody and timorous. 38 percent of girls are said to have an anxiety disorder of some kind (vs 26 percent of the boys). That’s over a third of all girls!

It gets worse: “major depression:” 16 percent of the girls (vs 8 percent of boys). Post-traumatic stress, 8 percent of the girls (vs 2 percent of the boys).

So, our young women are now pretty much disabled, right? Consider this: There are now more female than male undergrads in the US, more women than men going on to graduate programs of almost every kind. Yet the disorder figures for adolescent boys are considerably lower.

To be sure, boys are four times more “hyperactive” than girls. Well, I guess we knew that, jumpy lot that they are. But bad boys? The figures are about equal for “conduct disorder,” “intermittent explosive disorder,” and “oppositional defiant disorder.” Anne of Green Gables is dead. No doubt about that.

I simply don’t believe these statistics. It’s not that the investigators of the governmental Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services have somehow tricked up the numbers. But using the criteria of psychiatry’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), of the American Psychiatric Association, they have cast the net way, way too wide, so that stuff that used to be considered normal in adolescence is now deemed pathological. “O, you guys, look at these zits,” has now become an anxiety disorder, “Alcohol abuse,” defined as such by some absurdly low criterion, has gone from a rite de passage of adolescence, to a grave disorder. The psychiatrization of adolescence has been well launched.

Cui bono? In whose interest is it to do this? Not in the interest of the small number of child and adolescent psychiatrists themselves, who are swamped with “autism” and “bipolar.” But in the interest of the official organizations and the lobbyists they send to Congress.

“Look,” they can buttonhole eye-rolling solons, “Half of them mentally ill! We’ve got to have better funding!”

Sure, everybody needs better funding. But if we pour therapy dollars into the zit-brigade, we’re going to be sucking dollars out of some other very needy populations.

There is a real national crisis in the number of people with psychiatric disorders in prisons. According to statistics in a previous volume (for 2010) of the same series: for the year 2004, 56.2 percent of the inmates in state prisons had a mental illness, 44.8 percent of those in federal prisons, and (in 2002) 64.2 percent of those in local jails! (p. 123) In contrast to the adolescent mental health statistics quoted above, these data on mental illness among inmates were not blazoned forth: this particular table is not mentioned in the main index. Why? Because the mentally ill in prison have no big lobby on their side, nobody actually gives a s—t about them. But the oh-my-god-look-at-these-zits crew may soon be getting big federal dollars, along with a lot of social work clucking about the “crisis of adolescence.”

Does this strike you as wise national policy? Distributing dollars on the basis of trumped up alarmism, while those with genuine need – the “homeless” once they’re arrested -- languish under unspeakable conditions in our overcrowded prisons, victims of predators of every kind. Psychiatry is due for a re-think.