New book on the bipolar child controversy

This is the content of an email I received today. I asked the author, Ben Hansen an activist from Michigan if I could post it. It is a review of a book I have not read, but it sounds like a must read. Ben Hansen has done some wonderful activism as seen here and here. His website is here.

This is the text of the email:

There’s a new book edited by Dr. Sharna Olfman that everyone should read:

Bipolar Children: Cutting-Edge Controversy, Insights, and Research

My 5-star amazon review is copied below. — Ben

Sick children, or a sick society?

November 1, 2007
By Ben Hansen (Traverse City, Michigan)

The number of U.S. children diagnosed with bipolar disorder rose an astounding 4,000% in the past ten years. This startling fact drives home the urgency of this important new book edited by Sharna Olfman and bringing together some of the world’s most distinguished experts in the field.

Each of the book’s nine contributors offers a unique perspective on the issue, providing readers with a comprehensive view of a controversial and disturbing subject.

Among the most passionate voices are those of Dr. David Healy and Dr.Joanna Le Noury, who dissect the pharmaceutical industry’s unscrupulous strategies to expand the psychiatric drug market, resulting in the unprecedented “tidal wave” of child drugging currently sweeping our nation.

Award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker writes a carefully documented chapter citing solid scientific evidence showing that the widespread practice of medicating young children with stimulants like Ritalin or antidepressants like Prozac has fueled an explosion of drug side effects including psychosis, mania and suicidal impulses. These drug reactions are then misinterpreted as symptoms of severe mental illness, resulting in a mis-diagnosis of bipolar disorder which leads to treatment with “mood stabilizers” often combined in drug cocktails including major tranquilizers like Risperdal or Seroquel.

We may be witnessing a drug-induced epidemic of mental and physical disabilities directly caused by the irresponsible and misguided medical mis-treatment of our nation’s children. Psychology professor Daniel Burston looks at what is happening and calls it “the chemical colonization of childhood.”

Regardless of who or what we choose to blame for causing this catastrophe — Big Pharma, bad parenting, overcrowded schools, environmental toxins, television violence, etc. — one thing is certain: nothing will change until DOCTORS stop making the diagnoses and DOCTORS stop writing the prescriptions. What will it take to bring about such a change?

Perhaps we should begin focusing less on the children who are diagnosed, and more on the doctors who do the diagnosing. Lawrence Diller writes, “Only economic factors, the threat of legal action, or very negative publicity (e.g., children’s deaths while taking antidepressants) have widespread influence on doctors’ prescribing practices and treatment.”

In the book’s final chapter, epidemiologist Philip Landrigan sounds the alarm over the growing number of neurotoxic chemicals including mercury that are poisoning our environment. Landrigan writes, “It is striking that the mental health community has virtually ignored the health risks to children growing up in a world that is awash with thousands of synthetic chemicals, hundreds of which are already known to be poisonous to the brain.”

How ironic, then, if our society’s response to the harm caused by environmental toxins is to give our children drugs — chemical substances that are toxic to growing bodies and vulnerable brains!

6 thoughts on “New book on the bipolar child controversy

  1. Amanda says, “I read the book, the only problem was that the views stated were not supported or researched… Next time be sure to check your sources.”

    I don’t know who Amanda is, but her opinion is not supported by the facts.

    The book contains 16 pages of footnotes and references, including a total of 65 footnotes in one chapter alone (chapter 9, written by Philip Landrigan, M.D., chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine).

    Another chapter (the 4th, written by Robert Whitaker) contains a total of 57 footnotes.

    In all, the book contains at least 280 footnotes, citations and references. Many of these references are to clinical studies and articles published in scholarly journals like the Archives of General Psychiatry, the British Journal of Psychiatry, the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, the International Journal of Epidemiology, and many others.

    By the way, the book’s editor, Dr. Sharna Olfman, was interviewed a few days ago by Dr. Michael F. Shaughnessy at You may read this interview online:


  2. I know and respect Ben Hansen. He says that it was carefully documented and cited scientific evidence in at least the parts of it he speaks of. Clearly there is disagreement. I have not read the book so unfortunately I cannot clarify.

    Ben, however, in my opinion is a good source.

    As with every controversial subject people who disagree vehemently will find reasons to pooh pooh an argument based on their own personal ideology. This goes for people on both sides of an argument of course.

    I hope I can buy the book and read it myself. Right now I can’t afford it.


  3. I read the book, the only problem was that the views stated were not supported or researched. They were their own personal views, based entirely on case studies. Case studies, surveys, and correlational studies do not prove causation, they simply indicate variables for further study. For example ice cream and crime are positively correlated however ice cream does not cause crime. It is in fact, heat/summer that is the cause of the two variables. Next time be sure to check your sources.


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