Thursday, October 13, 2011

There’s No Conspiracy

Thanks to a reader, a blog was brought to my attention and I wanted to respond to it here. Not because I wanted to single this writer out, but because I know that many others may have the same concerns. It’s a post by a blogger who has taken a hard look at Dr. Joseph Biederman, a world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist who according to The New York Times help fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medication in children while not reporting all the money he made from drug makers. As this article states:

Dr. Biederman is one of the most influential researchers in child psychiatry and is widely admired for focusing the field’s attention on its most troubled young patients. Although many of his studies are small and often financed by drug makers, his work helped to fuel a controversial 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe mood swings, and a rapid rise in the use of antipsychotic medicines in children. (GARDINER HARRIS and BENEDICT CAREY, June 8, 2008)

This is definitely disturbing and I’m happy to see that there are watch dogs that are calling attention to misconduct in the field of child psychiatry research, but this blogger is also claiming that the name change for the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF) to The Balanced Mind Foundation is not to better serve the community, but instead to distance themselves from the stigma that Bieberman has brought to them. He states:

“Families did not want a medical sounding name, which they found to be stigmatizing” doesn’t quite capture the truth. For twelve years, they didn’t have trouble with the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, but now they’re changing their name. The real stigmatizing name that was their problem was Joseph Biederman [AKA God] who remains on their scientific advisory council. (1 Boring Old Man, October 12, 2011)

You can read the full post here:

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Here is my response:

It seems that there’s a lot being assumed regarding the name change by the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF).

As a parent, I was looking for support years ago, but couldn’t find anything that matched my son’s symptoms. At the time, I saw CABF, but didn’t participate on this forum because my son didn’t have the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. As time went on, my son became more ill, wanting to kill himself, seeing monsters and hearing voices along with rapid cycling. It was finally then that I started to seek support on CABF. Today, this website continues to be a very important resource for my family and I regret not visiting there sooner.

Because the field of pediatric mood disorders is still in its infancy stage and children are hard to diagnosis because of their developing brains, it may be years before our children get an “official correct diagnosis” for their mood disorders. Add to that the possibility of a new diagnosis being added to the DSM, and we’re left with a lot of parents looking for help and no place to land.

So as a user of this website, regardless on whether I like or dislike the new name, I think it’s important that CABF bring support to families like mine at any stage of our journey. Most kids will have several labels throughout their care because as the child’s brain grows, new symptoms appear, leading to a more defined diagnosis or a new diagnosis altogether. This was the case with our own son. Also, if doctors begin to avoid the diagnosis of “bipolar disorder”, even in cases where it seems evident (like our previous Psychiatrist has declared), families will be looking for resources and CABF will not be on their radar because of the name “Bipolar”. By changing the name, more families lost in the mess of pediatric labels can find the support they so desperately need and the support CABF can provide.

Also, it’s no surprise to me that after winning $250,000 in the the Pepsi Refresh Contest, that the foundation would invest in reevaluating their mission and revamping their look, this is what organizations do, it’s not a conspiracy.

By the way, in no way has Risperdal ever been pushed on my child through this website. In fact, we’ve never even tried it because we’ve found success with Lithium. Though I will mention that there are plenty of parents that are thankful for it and other antipsychotics. So the question remains, is Biederman’s research false because he didn’t report all of his income, or is it simply in question because of the conflict of interest? Unfortunately only more research will answer these questions.

The field of child psychiatry is not full of greedy, corrupt doctors. Just like any field, there can be a few bad seeds, but that doesn’t mean that the entire field is corrupt. If you toss out Biederman’s work, it doesn’t make my child’s symptoms disappear. It doesn’t take away the fact that my child needs medication. My child needs medication and is better because of it. Also, Bieberman’s wrong doing is unfortunate, but it doesn’t erase all the good that is being done in the field of pediatric research today. I have faith that organizations like CABF, now called The Balanced Mind Foundationare here to serve families like mine and that someday, researchers will have the answers and treatments we are all looking for.

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The New York Times
Researchers Fail to Reveal Full Drug Pay

Published: June 8, 2008Consulted: October 13, 2011

1 Boring Old Man (name of the actual blog)


  1. This is amazingly well said. Well, I guess not so amazing since most of your posts are awesome anyway... Thank you!

  2. I am always conflicted when I think of children being put on anti psychotics BUT....then I go to work where I see 50 children every day and it clicks. Among those children at the precious ages of 4 and 5 you can sometimes see the need for something. Not discipline but rather chemicals.

    I have seen a 5 year old throw furniture across a room in a rage and have to be dismissed from school and all I can think is....I have felt that rage before and I am Bipolar. What will that little person turn out to be? Would medicating now prevent future outburst for the child? I think yes....absolutely yes. I just hope I do not have to make that decision with my own kids.

  3. 1 Boring Old Man is an adolescent psychiatrist. He is 'retired' now and works in a low income adolescent psychiatric clinic in his retirement so he has seen a lot. He has some very insightful opinions about his profession.

  4. Thank you for offering a balanced (no pun intended) perspective to counter 1 Boring Old Man's view. It never ceases to amaze me how people far removed from a situation can be so quick to jump to conclusions, and such negative and manipulative ones at that.

  5. I will say that I have received some of harsh words in the comment section below 1 Boring Old Man's post from some of his followers, but the author of this blog has reached out to me in an email and was very respectful and kind. I really appreciated that!

  6. There are more than just a "few" bad seeds in psychiatry. The entire profession has been compromised by its willingness to cast what are often emotional problems as "biochemical imbalances." The profession also demonizes orthomolecular treatment, which also treats mental illness as biochemical in nature. Try telling most psychiatrists that you would prefer to treat your child with diet and vitamins and they will rain scare tactics down on you. They will offer active resistance to trying anything that doesn't come with a prescription. I say this, and I can also say that my son has had two very good psychiatrists, one who did not believe in drugs at all, and the other who is broad minded -- to a point. But they are the exception, not the rule. It took a fair amount of work to find them., no help from mainstream medicine.