I'm glad that TIME has written about the disorders that affect so many children and teenagers [Dec. 8]. Lots of people refuse to acknowledge childhood mental illness, but it does exist. I have been prescribed no fewer than 14 different medications in an attempt to control my depression and other mental problems. I have often been worried about the long-term effects of many drugs I have taken (several of which are being examined regarding their safety for children). I know that without medication I am a wreck, but I often feel as though I am somehow altering the person I might have become.
Medication is dispensed far too easily these days. In the case of mild disorders, cognitive or behavioral therapy is the appropriate treatment. People need to stop depending on medications to fix all their problems. It is scary to consider the effects that drugs are having on kids and their developing brains. I wish doctors would consider the factors that were raised in your article before they whip out their prescription pads.
What effect does the lack of parental guidance have on children with these behavioral problems? Adults think of their own happiness at the expense of their children's and then want an easy medication to fix any problems. Let's give kids what they need and want—our time!
In anticipation of all those letters you'll get about how parents medicate rather than discipline or love their kids, I have to write. My son, 13, is on five different medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity and bipolar disorder. The entire family has suffered through his bouts of suicidal thought, violence and mania. Although I am not entirely comfortable with having him on medication, it is the only thing that has worked. There may be another approach out there, but right now my son and the effects of his illness on the entire family have so sapped my energy, emotion and time that I am unable to pursue alternatives. Families like mine need understanding, not judgment. I am not looking for a quick fix. There is no easy one when raising a child with a severe illness.
Jane M. Smith
As a child I lived in a rural area, where such disorders were unheard of. The public perception of children like me was that they were disobedient, lazy, stubborn or incorrigible. In school my teachers constantly scolded and punished me, and my classmates taunted me for my inability to read, to pronounce properly, to mix [socially]. I could not figure what was wrong with my brain. I only learned what my disorders were when I attended law school at Leeds University in Britain. Even though the drugs to combat these disorders are experimental, they give affected kids a chance to lead a normal life. These unfortunate children have to be brave and strong. To them, I say, change "impossible" to "I'm possible."
Surprise! It's the President
The White House claims the president went to Iraq to boost the morale of the troops [Dec. 8], but he was in Baghdad for only 2 1/2 hours and fewer than 600 troops saw him. Because of the secrecy, thousands of military personnel in the area didn't even know he was there. So how was their morale helped? Let's call the trip what it was: political grandstanding.
Forrest G. Wood
By going to Iraq on thanksgiving day, President George W. Bush did what any decent leader should do during wartime: he took a great risk to show his country's soldiers that he was proud of them and grateful for their bravery. Was this trip dangerous? Sure. Unnecessary? No. I would have loved to see the G.I.s' faces firsthand when Bush entered the room. I'm proud of the President for going forward with his heart, as he always has. I can only pray that despite the constant media bashing, he can continue to show everyone he's not afraid to do the right thing.
Committed to Reform
Your story "A Paradise Divided" [Dec. 8] fails to portray an accurate account of the situation and events in the Maldives, notwithstanding the fact that your correspondent undertook a lengthy interview with His Excellency President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The assertion that the riots in Malé did not appear to "disturb Gayoom's reverie" is highly partial—particularly given the fact that immediately after they happened, he appeared on national television talking about them, and visited the relatives of the prisoner who died. What's more, the gibe about a presidential yacht is a cheap one. In a country of 1,200 islands—only three of which have airports—most travel is made by boat, so it is hardly surprising that there is a presidential boat! The final quotation from the interview with the President was used completely out of context. This sentence was cut out: "There are some people who are like that, but that's not the majority of the people." The President was referring to a small group rather than the population as a whole. This followed sustained questioning about drug use among sections of young people. The article contains factual inaccuracies. There are not "1,000 convicted dealers." Nor are those incarcerated for drugs offenses all drawn from the capital city of 86,000. At the time of the interview with the President, the prison population stood at 884, of which 723 were imprisoned for narcotics offenses. These offenders came not just from Malé but from the whole of the country, which has a population of some 270,101. As I write, the current prison population is 100, as a large number of prisoners have been released after the annual presidential pardon. Regarding the events of Sept. 19 and 20, your story fails to report the establishment of an independent commission to examine what took place in Maafushi prison, identify those responsible, and recommend reforms. The President has said that the findings of the report will be fully implemented and that those responsible [for the prison event] will be brought to justice. The report is expected shortly. There is no mention of the substantial reform program that the President has announced, including the establishment of a human-rights commission and the strengthening of democratic institutions and the processes of governance. The reporting of the recent presidential election is highly misleading. The Observer Group of Eminent Persons from the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) found that it was free and fair. The Maldives is a success story. It has achieved very substantial economic and social development. It has used the revenues from tourism wisely, investing in education and health. It is also an example of a liberal Muslim country that combines a commitment to religious principles with a society that respects personal liberty and enterprise. We agree that the country has its problems, but these are recognized and there is a clear commitment to reform. with a society that respects personal liberty and enterprise. We agree that the country has its problems, but these are recognized and there is a clear commitment to reform.
Assistant Director General
Ministry of Information,
Arts and Culture
I lost a daughter to suicide two years ago. She was on Paxil for 2 1/2 weeks before she died, and the medication greatly worsened her condition [Dec. 8]. Despite her disturbed and agitated state, no one dreamed she was suicidal; she had not shown any signs. She was a talented, beautiful young woman, a Stanford graduate working as an exhibit designer until the day before her death.
THE MEDICAL PROFESSION IS NOT BEING ALERTED TO THE FACT THAT SOME ANTIDEPRESSANT DRUGS ARE EXACTLY THE WRONG TREATMENT FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE. Yes, your article raised concerns about the safety and propriety of putting young minds on psychotropic drugs, but it failed to show the dark side of the story—the possible suicide risk associated with taking these drugs. Warnings have been issued by the manufacturers of Paxil and Effexor about a risk of suicidal thinking in pediatric patients on these drugs, and the Food and Drug Administration is calling a hearing to review data. None of this comes too soon for those of us who believe these drugs can cause tragedy.
Setting the Record Straight
Suitable For Use
Our health reporting on drugs for treating children with mood and behavior problems [Dec. 8] stated that Zoloft has not been approved for children. The FDA has approved Zoloft expressly for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and teens of age 6 to 17.
Terrorists in Turkey
The Notebook item about terrorist groups using Turkey as a base for operations [Dec. 8] mistakenly referred to the Turkish province of Bingol as bordering Iraq. It does not.