The yellow do-not-cross crime scene tape had barely been
strung at Westroads Mall in Omaha before psychiatrist Dr. Harold Koplewicz
appeared on CBS' The Early Show to say that's depression for you.
Nineteen-year-old Robert Hawkins might have gunned down 13
people with an assault rifle -- eight of whom died -- but it's classic
depression and suicide.
Not an antidepressant-induced rampage like we saw at
Virginia Tech, Columbine, Red Lake and Nickel Mines.
"Every year in this country we lose 5,000 kids to
suicide," Koplewicz told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "This
[incident in Omaha] is a suicide, also."
And, despite changing medical perspectives, web sites
devoted to "SSRI" violence, testimony of affected families and
Hawkins' own friend Shawn who told KETV NewsWatch 7 Hawkins was on
antidepressants, Koplewicz blames the disease not the drug.
"The psychiatric illness itself really damages
them," he told the TV audience, adding "If you leave these kids
untreated, these diseases, particularly depression, it only gets worse. It
doesn't get better."
Hawkins without drugs would have been worse?
Koplewicz is director and founder of New York University's Child
Study Center and author of "It's Nobody's Fault, New Hope and Help for
Difficult Children and Their Parents," and "More Than Moody," a
book that delineates differences between teenage angst and depression.
He is a defender of pediatric Ritalin use and wrote in a
2000 op-ed, "Increasing use of Ritalin is not necessarily cause for alarm.
The real outrage is that an estimated 20 percent of the nearly 10 million
American children and teenagers who suffer from diagnosable psychiatric
illnesses ever receive help."
But an ad campaign Koplewicz spearheaded for the Child Study
Center this month designed to call attention to the "12 million"
children who are "held hostage" to autism, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder,
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger's syndrome and
bulimia has backfired.
The ads in New York magazine, Newsweek and on New York City
billboards feign ransom notes from the kidnapper with pediatric mental illness
with messages such as: "We have your son. We will make sure he will no
longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he
lives" and the tag line, "Don't let a psychiatric disorder take your
Just as Robert Hawkins would have been worse drug free, the
real danger children face is their Ritalin deficiency!
But some parents, such as Susan Etlinger of San Francisco
whose 4-year-old son has mild autism, find the ads alarmist and stigmatizing.
"This campaign characterizes them [the children] as a
series of symptoms rather than as the unique people they are."
Vicki Forman, whose 7-year-old son is blind and nonverbal,
agrees. "The idea of an autistic person being held hostage is a very disturbing
and backward image," she says.
Others are offended by the pharma-serving
"dose-them" message with so many unanswered questions about
psychiatric drugs' side effects in children and their long-term effects on
growth and development.
"Even as the world
expresses shock by the number of US children being labeled as mentally ill and
drugged with powerful psychotropic drugs, Dr. Harold Koplewicz, the founder and
director of the NYU Child center makes the following patently false
claim," writes Yonkers blogger Louise Uccio: "'Children's mental
disorders are truly the last great public health problem that has been left
Does Koplewicz "not make enough money already from
private practice, running New York University's Child Study Center, and doing
studies for pharma companies?" writes Philip Dawdy on the popular mental
health blog, Furious Seasons.
"Why has the media quoted this guy for years as an authority on
mental illness and its treatment when he's a co-author of the discredited Paxil
If nothing else, the Child Study Center campaign may make
people think about who has really taken American children hostage.
Martha Rosenberg is a Staff Cartoonist at the Evanston
Roundtable. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, San
Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Providence Journal. Arizona Republic, New
Orleans Times-Picayune and other newspapers. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.