Many of you read an article published in the New York Times on September 2 and written by Duff Wilson entitled, “Child’s Ordeal Shows Risks o Psychosis Drugs or Young.” The article addresses the use of psychosis drugs in the treatment of children with emotional and mental health issues. Occasionally, articles that address this issue give rise to questions about how we at Hillsides care for many of the children and the youth in our residential treatment program who often arrive here on some sort of medication.
As you can imagine, there are many risks associated with treating youngsters with any type of drug. For those children for whom drugs have been prescribed it is important to provide them with an initial screening to confirm the use of the medication and observe its overall effects. All medication is monitored by one of three psychiatrists that serve our residents and medication is administered by registered nurses. In addition, all staff are instructed on the side effects of these medications.
All things being equal there should always be some reluctance to prescribe psychosis drugs. For many children they can be very effective to improve functioning and manage impulse. These benefits of course need to be compared by the often unknown effects from long-term use. Our overall approach is to be cautious in using medication and always couple it with a strength-based behavioral approach to support the child in both the education and residential setting.
For anyone who is challenged by a child with emotional or behavioral disorders it is important to know that there are some very effective medications to treat these issues, but medication alone is not the best approach. Managing the environment around the child coupled with a strength-based positive approach can often provide less dependence on drugs and an opportunity to develop some very important managing skills that result in improved functioning.
Moving Art Exhibit
Last Friday we were treated to an extraordinary art exhibit prepared by many of our residents, a result of a summer art program led our out Kim Ha, director of Hillsides art program. Many wonderful pieces were displayed, but I share this one with you because I believe it demonstrates the power of art to be therapeutic. This particular painting was done by one of our residents when she was in a great deal of emotional distress. She arrived at the art studio crying, asking to paint and out of her pain came this moving piece. Kim says that she finished the piece by massaging with her fingers the heart she had painted, providing such a dramatic effect and eliciting a moving reaction. Kudos to Kim Ha, his assistant Michael, also a YMO resident, and all the great young artists of Hillsides.