Friday, September 30, 2011

Kay Redfield Jamison in BP Magazine

Above: Kay Redfield Jamison responds to the question: 
What would you like to say to those suffering from mental illness?

If you haven’t seen the written interview with Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison in BP Magazine blog, you’ll have to check out the link below (this is different than the video above). If you’ve never heard of Dr. Jamison, let me fill you in. She’s an incredible woman fighting for those with bipolar disorder through her impressive work in bipolar research, her instruction in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and through her profound books such as An Unquiet Mind, all while having bipolar disorder herself. According to the interview, her honors include being named one of the Best Doctors in the United States and being chosen by Time magazine as a “Hero of Medicine.” To me, she’s superwoman.

What I found encouraging in her article was that she’s been able to manage her illness with Lithium for more than 30 years now. Though she’s the first to tell you that this is not an easy thing to do, being that she made the mistake of stopping her Lithium at one point, she encourages sufferers to stay on their medication. As she points out:
“There is a huge relationship between suicide and being under the age of 30, but that’s exactly the age group that is least likely to be compliant in taking medication,” Jamison points out.
I feel a calling in Jamison’s words. As a mom, I feel that one of my greatest responsibilities is to teach my son to stay on his medication. It’s become a consistent message in our home. We’re lucky that at the age of 10 he desires to take it and believes that it’s essential to his life, but I know those teen years are approaching and if there’s one thing that goes hand-in-hand with puberty, it’s rebellion. So ironically, while many parents are teaching their kids to avoid drugs, we’re teaching our son to avoid drugs, but don’t stop taking the ones you’re on now. Will this be a confusing message in the years to come or will this be a gateway to trying illegal drugs as some suggest? In my gut, I don’t think so. I really believe that our son understands the value of his meds, but regardless, we’ll remain watchful in the years ahead. I figure that if even Dr. Jamison was able to convince herself that she didn’t need her medication, I know that my son too may think the same someday.

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Read the interview here:
Kay Redfield Jamison: A Profile in Courage

My Book review of An Unquiet Mind:


  1. I think teaching your son to stay on his meds, and not add other non sanctioned chemicals to the mix will work out just fine. Unlike other teenagers who experiment with drugs, he's already had experience with side effects, and just how closely meds need to be monitored to maintain both physical and mental health. I doubt he will see the non-guaranteed high of "recreational" drugs as being worth the risks.

    I think in some ways these kids that have been on drugs since they were pre-teens are much more educated about drugs and how they can affect the body. I don't think many of them will see it as any sort of gateway. Plus, with their moods being mollified by the beneficial drugs they will have less of a need to reach out for something else.

    I sure hope that's true. And hopefully the teen rebellion will be about something else.

  2. Heather- you make some great points! It's funny you mention the "mix of chemicals", one of the things I teach my son is that like his chemistry set, if you mix the wrong chemicals together you can get an explosion, we talk about how mixing illegal drugs or alcohol with his meds can have a similar effect, with the results being disastrous. He seems to really get this.

  3. A good medication routine can make all the difference. I am almost 30 and fight the urge to tamper with my meds but I have heard that the earlier you start the medications than the easier it is to make them into a good routine.

  4. Hi,
    I don't think that your son can confuse narcotics and meds.

    First, if you make the distinguish between medicines and narcotics, it will clear up his mind.
    The "only" problem is that the term "drug" doesn't make any difference between a medicine and drugs like cannabis.
    So distinguish between a medicine and a narcotic, you'll immediately see that "explaining that he has to stick on only the drugs he takes and stay away to the other drugs" won't be as tricky as it seems.

    You can explain that a medicine is here to make us better, whereas a narcotic is here to make us feel worse even when the cover claims that it will make us feel better (so the difference between "it claims" and "it is").

    You"ll see, it,s not as tricky as you think : just banish the term "drug" in your explanation and everything gets clearer.
    See that you don't need much to solve the problem ?