- Alduous Huxley -
As a mental health professional advocating for children, adolescents and their families within the legal, academic, and social institutions for a number of years, I have observed a growing intolerance within our society to behavioral presentations and patterns that do not conform to an increasingly narrow perception of what is 'normal'. Simultaneous to this increasing intolerance is a continuous breakdown within the institutions themselves which limits their ability to respond effectively to the needs of the individual. Unprecedented cutbacks in education, arts, and social programs which assist our most vulnerable citizens; the young, the elderly, the impoverished and the disabled, is creating a new culture of 'normal'; one in which our ability to respond to the 'troubled' or 'maladapted' individual is becoming more and more limited to chemical restraints. In our public schools physical exercise, creative expression, and critical thinking skills have been replaced with educational strategies such as "No Child Left Behind" and Standards of Learning requirements that entrain our children to focus primarily on test-taking and grade percentages. The results of which appear to directly correlate to their developing sense of self-worth or lack there of. Policies such as "Zero Tolerance" has created a fear-based culture of reactivity within our academic institutions, resulting in extreme, irrational consequences for what was previously recognized as falling within the realm of developmentally expected behaviors. For the first time in history we have agreed as a society, on a scale never before seen, that it makes perfect sense to chemically restrain our children when their behaviors and achievements do not conform to this narrowing bandwidth of perceived 'normality'. Consequently, one in four children in this country between the ages of 13 and 18 have now been identified as suffering from an anxiety disorder. In 1985, half a million children in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Today it is estimated that 5 to 7 million children in this country now have this diagnosis. Three and a half million children have met the criteria for a diagnosis of depression and a recent study showed a 600 percent increase in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder in children under the age of 13 in the last 10 years. Most of these children are receiving pharmacological interventions despite the absence of longitudinal studies that have not been funded by pharmaceutical companies excluding long-term, negative consequences on a brain still in its formative stages of development. It would seem that the wide spread practice of chemically restraining our young citizens ensures their 'survival' now that they can adjust more easily to the "Fundamental Order of Things" of which, clearly, no serious enquiry is being made.