Newsweek Examines Bipolar Disorder in Children Through Experience of One
Family Disease Hard to Pin Down; at Least 800,000 Children in U.S. Diagnosed
Unclear How Drugs Work; No Studies on Long-Term Effects in Children
NEW YORK, May 18 /PRNewswire/ -- As Newsweek General Editor Mary Carmichael reports in the May 26 cover, "Growing Up Bipolar" (on newsstands Monday, May 19), childhood bipolar disorder is hard to pin down. At least 800,000 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed as bipolar, no doubt some of them wrongly. There are many drugs, but it's unclear how they work. Often they don't work at all, and they may interfere with normal brain growth. There are no studies on their long-term effects in children. Yet untreated bipolar disorder can be disastrous; 10 percent of sufferers commit suicide.
Parents must choose between two wrenching options: treat their children and risk a bad outcome, or don't treat and risk a worse one. No matter what they do, they are in for uncertainty and pain. Carmichael reports on the dilemma by telling the wrenching story of one family, Amy and Richie Blake and their 10-year-old son Max, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was two years old.
She reports that Max was seven the first time he tried to kill himself. He wrote a four-page will bequeathing his toys to his friends and jumped out his ground-floor bedroom window, falling six feet into his backyard, bruised but in one piece. Children don't really know what death is, as the last page of Max's will made clear: "If I'm still alive when I have grandchildren," it began. But they know what unhappiness is and what it means to suffer.
On a recent Monday afternoon, Max, now 10, was supposed to come home on
the schoolbus, but a counselor summoned his m
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