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Government’s Response to the Child Mental Health Crisis? Medicate Mothers.

Woman taking antidepressant "happy pill"

Earlier this year I reviewed various topics covered in psychotherapist Erica Komisar’s much-needed book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. The book covers the culture of motherhood in such a profound way that I’d line it up with Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Stephen Camarata’s The Intuitive Parent in a trifecta of required reading for all new parents.

Komisar’s book is focused on the mental health of both mother and child during the first three years of a child’s life. Focusing on the mother-child relationship, Komisar delves into the reasons why ADD/ADHD, depression, and anxiety diagnoses have skyrocketed among children over the past decade. Her conclusion is simple: Culture pushes mothers away from their children long before children are ready to separate. This cultural demand puts the psychological health of both mother and child at serious, even long-term risk.

Komisar’s book became popular enough to attract the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Her profile in the paper then attracted even more attention, this time in the form of accusations Komisar originally received from publishers who rejected her manuscript, fearing feminist backlash. You’re setting women back! You’re making women feel guilty!

Komisar’s call for a child-centric culture was screamed against by feminists, the irony being twofold. One, mainstream feminists proved themselves to be the single-issue anti-child movement they’ve been accused of being since Roe v. Wade. Two, perhaps more frighteningly, these feminists favor '60s politics over current scientific data. If it is children who are being sacrificed on the altar of the former, the latter is an altar on which today’s women are being burnt alive by their own sisterhood.

The government is well aware of the toll cultural pressures have taken on the mental health of today’s mothers. So aware, in fact, that they’re right ready to step in with a new program called Healthy Steps, “ a national program designed to improve the delivery of developmental and behavioral services to young children through primary pediatric care.”

It is worth noting that Healthy Steps is managed by ZERO TO THREE, an organization that began as a pet project of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Clinical Unit in the 1970s. By the '90s, ZERO TO THREE was a corporation so intertwined with government agencies that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton was featured at their 20th anniversary gala honoring Senators Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Jim Jeffords and John Kerry, all hearty advocates of universal healthcare.

Healthy Steps is being praised in parent media as a program that allows mothers to have mental health screenings at their children’s pediatric appointments. The belief is that through these screenings maternal depression that might otherwise go ignored can be diagnosed and treated before it has a long-term negative impact on the family.

What the Healthy Steps press doesn’t dive into is the fact that most general practitioners, given a limited window with patients, will simply prescribe antidepressant medication if their patient fits the bill. Hence, “the use of antidepressants increased nearly 400 percent between 1988 and 2008, mostly among women between the ages of 40 and 59.”

Instead of seeking out the right mental health experts to address mental health issues, busy mothers are more apt to take the pill at a timely appointment and keep going. And because general practitioners have become the primary prescribers of antidepressant medication, “the increasing trend in long-term antidepressant use was almost entirely in adults who received their medications from general medical providers.” And because drugs are cheaper than therapy, insurance companies prefer you just take the medication, regardless of the dangerous side effects of taking these medications long term.

Research indicating that “ important data about the safety of these drugs — especially their risks for children and adolescents — has been withheld from the medical community and the public,” doesn’t surface in Healthy Steps literature. This, combined with current medical practices leads one to conclude that if you’re planning on using Healthy Steps to address your own maternal health issues, you’ll just be given a prescription to pop a pill.

Ironically, Komisar was driven to write her book based on the dramatic increase in mental health diagnoses among children. Now we’re learning that the government’s response to addressing the child mental health crisis is to medicate mothers. Instead of addressing the real issue, culturally forced maternal-child separation at far too young an age, we’re sedating ourselves into acceptance of a cultural norm that is anything but normal.