Kids who act out with violence are either heaped together into one amorphous, raging blob or else they’re stamped with labels that even the psychiatric community can’t find consensus on. That’s a grammatically wonky sentence, but I have trouble forming coherent thought around how violent kids are diagnosed and treated.
We need to distinguish between one type of problem and another when children explode. However, the professionals making a living off our children’s pathologies don’t make the task easier for us. They don’t know how the brain works; they tweak symptoms with chemical cocktails but don’t cure anything; and they often can’t agree whether a disorder even exists or not.
Autism spectrum is a bewildering, catch-all name for what appears to be a large group of very poorly understood mental disorders. It’s treated through expensive, painstaking work and with poorly understood psychopharmaceuticals.
No violence is acceptable or desirable, and the goal should be to have a clearer picture of what type of problem a child has when violence occurs. Treatment depends on comprehension. It’s unhelpful for children, for families, and for society, if children’s mental health issues aren’t clearly spelled out and explained to the best of our limited abilities. What a great service it would be in moving forward if we could speak clearly when we refer to these kids and their problems.
There’s nothing more tragic when a child hurts or kills. There’s no salve for tragedy, but some understanding can help. The media often tries its best to report calmly, but it can slide quickly into sensationalizing it because events by children are rare, freakish and bizarre. Children are supposed to be pure, innocent, perfect, and under our control. Child violence shocks our collective notion of what defines childhood.
Blame is easy. At the time of this post, I just read reports on the conclusion of an investigation done about the American teenager [dead by suicide] who murdered a large group of Grade 1 children, their teachers, and his own mother. The report indeed blamed the killer’s mother for having “accommodated” and “appeased” him, and for failing to have him medicated.
[Now, I am not American, so my worldview differs from an American perspective to the degree that I recognize that if guns were not readily available to children in the United States, and if gun practice and play was not encouraged by U.S. society, then this incredible tragedy would never have happened.
This teenager may still have killed a person or people, but it’s unlikely he would have been able to cause the unthinkable and hideous death toll he did without being able to arm himself like a combat soldier or terrorist. The media did not report on what the investigation said about the killer’s easy access to, and indeed collection of, guns.
The gun issue is so politically divisive in the U.S. that I am unsurprised if the investigators simply chose to turn a blind eye to the killer’s tools of death. Surely, angry and unwell teens like this exist in every nation, but not every nation has such easy, legal access to tools that can kill tens of people in seconds.]
The killer is widely believed to have suffered from some autism-spectrum issues. He is said to have been completely obsessed with mass murder, and discussed his obsessions with like-minded people on the Web. Other children (with or without this teen’s clinical diagnosis) also sometimes kill siblings or other children. Teenagers sometimes murder their families. There are surely researchers in universities spending their time parsing over the statistics, facts and individuals involved in these types of horrific events. Are there predictors? Is this an identifiable type? Anecdotally, I recall the murder of parents by a teen and her boyfriend in a semi-rural Canadian city recently. There was no mention of autism or a previous diagnosis of anything. What are these killers? An autism diagnosis in one apparently very troubled child who had easy access to guns tells me nothing about anything.
Sociopathic disorder is marked by people who lack empathy, are emotionally detached, clinically cold, and highly manipulative. There doesn’t appear to be treatment for sociopaths except having them separated from innocent people. But, paradoxically, while it’s seen as a mental disorder the world also rewards those traits, evidenced by fact that people with this brain illness rise to the tops of corporations, governments and other fields (through manipulation and deception, naturally), so we are in a double bind.
These children wouldn’t appear to be marked by impulsive rages at all, but operate by planning and calculation. Families are bound to identify these children very early, but would probably be highly motivated live in denial about it (it would take superhuman emotional, psychological, and moral courage to admit to bearing and raising a sociopathic child!) until it’s too late, after they have already maimed or murdered. I am under the impression that sociopaths are born, not made. Recently published ‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ was written by an evidently self-diagnosed sociopath on the subject of being a sociopath. My heart breaks for our world when I’m reminded that these people live among us — and, in fact, very often appear to lead the rest of us ‘feeling’ people since they crave power and wish to manipulate.
Schizophrenia and psychosis appears in children from even a very young age. My heart breaks for these children and their families. There is no scientific understanding of how it develops, of how or why it occurs, or why or how in whom. Science literally knows nothing.
Some parents talk of babies who howl 24 hours each day from unseen agony. They develop into wonderful little people on one hand, but also little people who suffer incomprehensible psychic pain on the other. They hurt themselves and sometimes others, but they are otherwise bright, loving and creative souls whose minds seem to be half in our world and half in another. Failing any other treatments or understanding, these kids are certainly heavily medicated in order for everyone around them to survive. They seem to be given a handful of diagnoses all the time, and metaphorphising cocktails of psychotropic drugs.
One day science will catch up to them and understand how and why they experience their brains and minds as they do. A 2009 documentary called ‘Born Schizophrenic’, centred on a little American girl (January Schofield) diagnosed with schizophrenia, and it was the definition of riveting. When I first saw it my eyes were glued to the TV. At that time, my own son would have been throwing full-blown 45-minute rages twice weekly, and 20-minute explosions once or twice daily; but the experience of that beleageured family, and of others shown briefly in the film, made my situation look like a walk in a park on a sunny day.
Today, Integrative and Functional medicine report successful treatments for some childhood neurological issues. Would that extend to these most serious mental conditions? I won’t risk an opinion, and am only in the process myself of slowly removing gluten from my own son’s diet to see if he experiences any improvement with his own ability to self-regulate and control himself. Can any of the disorders that make children behave violently be controlled through a radical shift in diet away from our heavily toxic, inflammatory foods? Are gluten, probiotics, micronutrients, phytonutrients, and microbes the answers?
ADD, ADHD, and ODD are faddish diagnoses and only speak to symptoms, not actual disorders with causes. Kids can be diagnosed with those labels even if the causes of their behaviour have nothing whatsoever in common. I’m extremely skeptical when suddenly millions of any particular group (in this case, North American children) are diagnosed with a particular modern illness springing from nowhere; and more so when professionals instantly offer a profitable pharmacologic “treatment” for it…
Who are all the kids being called ADD, ADHD, ODD (and whatever other multisyllabic monickers came before or will arrive later)? Some have brain injuries; some have developmental problems; some are emotionally abused; some are physically abused; many are activity/nature deficient. I’m also coming around to the idea that our toxic environment and inflammatory diet may well contribute or cause some behaviour issues. Nutrient-empty diets and chemically toxic environments can’t support healthy brains, and especially if a child is susceptible or predisposed in that area.
Our weak social fabric and absence of moral and spiritual* guidance is certain to play a role in susceptible children’s behaviour. What message can a child read when prime-time TV promotes an ever-revolving collection of grisly, blood-soaked programs that glorify, or obsess on, rape, kidnapping, death, murder by every imaginable weapon, mutilation, stalking…
*[By ‘spiritual’ I don’t mean religious. Children benefit from knowing and feeling that they are a valuable part of a natural world of consciousness (both seen and unseen). Active or passive meditations can help make children connect to themselves as whole beings, and as whole beings to our larger universe. Connection can give a child meaning, direction, a sense of responsibility, creative awareness, and more…]
So much more is unknown about violent kids than appears to be known. And pharmaceutical corporations should NOT be leading any so-called ‘research’ (that always coincidentally turns out to be self-serving) and social conversation. I’m grateful for professionals who have NO ties to the drug marketplace. Those who have a financial interest in promoting drugs (with deadly side effects) that only quash symptoms carry no credibility for me. Integrative and Functional medicine professionals, whose books are affordable or whose online lectures are free, have no financial stake in feeding my son probiotics, omega-3 oils, organic foods; and to teach him meditation and self-regulation. He may benefit, and he will never be injured, by such a treatment plan.
So, who are the characters of ‘The Wild Bunch’? Children who are poorly understood or not understood at all, and whose treatment options are pretty much limited to dangerous, poorly understood, mind-numbing drugs. Allow me to mix a metaphor and suggest it’s a wild band of crazy kids riding through the fog of Dark Ages medicine.