In the Journals

Psychiatrised Children and their Rights: Global Perspectives — A Special Issue of Children & Society

The current issue of Children & Society is a special issue entitled “Psychiatrised Children and their Rights: Global Perspectives.” The issue is edited by Brenda A. LeFrançois and Vicki Coppock, who introduce it in their piece, “Psychiatrised Children and their Rights: Starting the Conversation.” The rest of the issue’s abstracts are as follows:

Sick or Sad? Supporting Palestinian Children Living in Conditions of Chronic Political Violence
Yoke Rabaia, Mahasin F. Saleh, and Rita Giacaman

In this article we reflect on the relatively recent emphasis on Palestinian children’s mental health and well-being in the context of exposure to chronic warlike conditions, as we position this trend within the larger framework of the generations-long history of political turmoil and suffering. We describe how a process that started with no attention to psychosocial health of children in relation to exposure to dispossession, expulsion, occupation, repression and military attacks, proceeded with a focus on presumed mental disorders, and the more recent approach of designing context appropriate and community-based psychosocial interventions.

Agency in Institutionalised Youth: A Critical Inquiry
Lauren Polvere

This qualitative study examined the perspectives of formerly institutionalised youth labelled with psychiatric disabilities through the lens of agency. Rooted in the medical model, much research on institutionalised youth describes clinical symptoms and behaviour problems, locating the source of these problems within the individual. To address the lack of critical inquiry regarding the transactions between youth and institutions, this article examines youth perspectives on institutional practices. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with formerly institutionalised youth and young adults. The findings suggest that youth draw from agentic strategies to negotiate oppressive institutional practices. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Psychotropic Childhoods: Global Mental Health and Pharmaceutical Children
China Mills

While the World Health Organization calls to ‘scale up’ access to psychotropic drugs for children in the global South, research from the global North has found that long-term use of psychotropic drugs may be at best ineffective, or at worst harmful. Questioning what counts as evidence within the Movement for Global Mental Health, this article maps the physical, psychological and sociopolitical effects of increasingly global psychotropic interventions into children’s lives. This psychiatrisation will be read alongside colonisation, leading to the uncomfortable question of whether every child should have the right to a psychotropic childhood.

The Utmost Discretion: How Presumed Prudence Leaves Children Susceptible to Electroshock
Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Simon Adam, Peter Breggin, and Brenda A. LeFrançois

This article examines the controversial and largely publicly undocumented practice of administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or electroshock) to children who are undergoing psychiatric treatment. Conventional psychiatric beliefs and practices are challenged, along with a presentation of the history of scientific research which questions electroshock’s ‘effectiveness’ and outlines its brain-damaging and incapacitating effects. As such, we provide counterarguments regarding the legitimacy of ECT as a treatment option, deconstructing the principle of presumed prudence in its use. Our analysis leads us to conclude that the ‘principle of presumed prudence’ should be eschewed in favour of the ‘precautionary principle’, in order to underscore and uphold the medical ethos ‘to do no harm’ and to ensure the application of children’s rights within the psychiatric system.

Children and ADHD: seeking control within the constraints of diagnosis
Geraldine Brady

The views of children diagnosed with ADHD have, until recently, largely been neglected in research, policy and practice. This article focuses on qualitative research which explored children’s lived experience, drawing attention to the ways that they actively ‘take’ responsibility for managing their physical, psychological and emotional well-being within the constraints of a medical diagnosis. The neglect of a tradition which asks children about their own experiences of ADHD is crucially bound up with children’s low social and political status in UK society and notions of competency and responsibility in relation to ADHD.

The Rights of Children and Parents In Regard to Children Receiving Psychiatric Diagnoses and Drugs
Peter R. Breggin

Based on the author’s extensive clinical, forensic and research experience, this article addresses the scientific and moral question of whether it is ever in the best interests of a child to be given a psychiatric drug. The focus is on the diagnosis Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and stimulant drugs, and on the diagnosis Bipolar Disorder and antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs. The conclusion is that we should work towards a prohibition against giving psychiatric drugs to children, and instead focus on safe and effective alternative ways of meeting the needs of children within their families, schools and society.

‘Dangerous Minds’? Deconstructing Counter-Terrorism Discourse, Radicalisation and the ‘Psychological Vulnerability’ of Muslim Children and Young People in Britain
Vicki Coppock and Mark McGovern

Current British Government strategies to counter terrorism (exemplified in the Prevent policy and Channel programme) are based upon a problematic fusion of certain dominant explanatory models of the ‘causes of terrorism’ (specifically, ‘psychological vulnerability’ to ‘radicalisation’) with discourses of ‘child protection/safeguarding’. Derived from particular mainstream traditions of social scientific epistemology and inquiry, these knowledge paradigms ‘legitimise’ a pre-emptive, interventionist and securitising approach that affects the lives of young British Muslims. The aim of this article is to challenge some of the assumptions that underpin the understanding of ‘radicalisation’, ‘psychological vulnerability’ and ‘child protection’ evidenced in these state practices and policies.


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