Psychopath at 10?
Amy, Thank you for bringing up the large number of individuals who are prescribed psychotropic drugs by other than psychiatrists. There are serious consequences for patients who use these drugs, and I think that this kind of lack of knowledge can lead to dire consequences. I know that it is only fiction, but there was a recent episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that addressed just this type of situation. There was a 10 year old boy who was hurting his younger sister. His school employed a grad student as their counselor, and she indicated that he had exhibited a variety of anti-social behaviors. She admitted to working with his pediatrician to prescribe a wide variety of drugs, and all adults involved felt that they just had to find the right drug that would improve his behavior. His parents were opposed to having him evaluated by a psychologist because they did not want to have him labeled. This reluctance from family and professionals eventually led to the boy attempting to murder his sister by fire, stabbing his mother, drowning his neighbors dog, and shooting a police officer. When a psychiatrist was finally allowed to evaluate the child, he was reluctantly diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (reluctantly because of his age).
Again, I know that this is fiction, but this is a great way to illustrate the frustrations that families of individuals with mental disorders may have. Not only do they not understand what is going on, they may have fear of what it would mean to have it diagnosed. The parents on the show were generally surprised when told that after the boy’s last and most violent attacks, that they were not going to be able to take him home. They truly did not understand that they were incapable of handling the problems associated with this disorder. When confronted with the earlier of his escalating behaviors, the parents promised that they would take better care of him and give him more attention. Their promises sounded like a small child who says, “I promise I’ll walk and feed the dog everyday,” when you know that the small child is just not capable of making that kind of commitment. They also displayed an enormous amount of guilt, and often said that if they loved him enough things would get better.
If the main stream media continues to highlight the plight of individuals with some of these mental health disorders and their families, general public awareness will rise. I’m not sure that anyone who saw the episode would be unsympathetic to the pain that this family was going through, even if one did not agree with the choices that they made regarding care of their son.
Martin, J., Leight, W. (Writers) & Chapple, A. (Director). (2013). Born Psychopath [Television series episode]. In Leight, W. (Executive Producer), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. New York: NY: Universal Television