Thursday, February 25, 2010

Judith Warner

Judith Warner writes the “Domestic Disturbances” column for the New York Times and is the host of “The Judith Warner Show” on XM Satellite Radio. Her new book is We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.

From her Q & A with Bill Tipper at the Barnes & Noble Review:

The Barnes & Noble Review: We've Got Issues reads at times like a kind of mystery story -- you’re the investigator, trying to track down where these ideas about medicated kids come from. But there prove to be many layers: the popular myth of the doped-up child, the real issues that parents of mentally ill children are facing, the questions of psychiatric ethics and pharmaceutical money. At points you convey the sense of a difficult problem that has no center --was that your experience as you researched and wrote this book?

Judith Warner: This was a very difficult book to write. The image that always came to mind, as I grappled with it, was of quicksand. I kept trying to get a handle on the book – what it was really about, what I did and didn’t know, and each time I thought I had a new formula for moving forward, it would collapse under and around me. My certainties were so solid at the very beginning. I sold the idea of a book on “affluent parents and neurotic kids,”and the way forward seemed clear: : we lived in an anxious time; parents were pushy and competitive; children were undisciplined and badly-behaved generally, all that bad behavior was being called sickness. It made sense to me that children’s purported “issues” were just side-effects of living in our anxious, competitive times. It suited my way of thinking – habits of mind developed back in college that were only semi-conscious – to “read” children’s symptoms as signs of cultural malaise. It suited my prejudices (again, only semi-conscious) to basically discount the beliefs of modern psychiatry; to see biological psychiatry as anti-humanist, to feel that our culture was pushing to fit children into a box and that those who didn’t fit into it were being diagnosed as sick.

The problem came, first, when I began speaking to (or more precisely, listening to) parents of children with mental health issues. There was an objective reality to the difficulties they were witnessing and experiencing that didn’t at all fit with my idea of children’s-mental-illness-as-mirage. There is a “center,” as you put it, to the topic of children’s mental health issues: there is the experience of children and their parents. When you get at the reality of this experience – that children...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue