Friday, September 30, 2011

My Request to the West Australian Newspaper

I wrote a letter to the newspaper today. Will they print it? Time will tell. I thought I'd share my thoughts here as well, because I feel so strongly about this issue.

The front page of today's West Australian tells the story of a courageous man who has gone public with his struggle to deal with Bipolar Disorder, and his very close call with suicide. The issue is treated with the respect it deserves. Bipolar Disorder is described as a chemical imbalance, and the reader is left in no doubt that it is a serious condition, requiring specialised treatment. There is respectful mention of the treating psychiatrist and the use of medication. As a result of this article, the general public has a better understanding of Bipolar Disorder. People with Bipolar Disorder will find it easier to request help, and those experiencing worrying symptoms will be more inclined  to make a doctor's appointment, or to contact Lifeline, whose telephone number was supplied.

Page 13 of the same newspaper carries an article about ADHD in Western Australia - specifically, what it deems to be the over-use of stimulant medication to treat it. People with ADHD are vilified, and so are the doctors who treat them. A politician in western Australia, who has no medical qualifications whatsoever is permitted to dominate the discourse in this serious matter. He points out that adults diagnosed with ADHD are predominantly from wealthier suburbs in WA, but neglects to say that adults with ADHD are denied treatment in the public health system. Only those who can afford a private psychiatrist receive treatment. He then accuses people diagnosed with ADHD of abusing their medications. There is no mention of the people who have had their lives turned around by their diagnosis and by the use of this medication. Finally, he attacks the doctors - in particular one psychiatrist in WA who treats 1253 patients a year for ADHD. He fails to mention that people with ADHD only see their specialist once every six months, or perhaps even once a year. Would an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in knee replacements be criticised for seeing 1253 patients with knee problems?

Finally, the voice of reason - and it is only offered the final 2 sentences of the article in which to make itself heard. Margaret Vikingur, president of the evidence-based support group LADS (Learning & Attentional DIsorders Society of WA Inc), rightly points out that there is much scientific evidence to support the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in adults. So why is this evidence consistently ignored?

Let's look at the evidence, and put this hysterical nonsense about ADHD to bed. We know from epidemiologocal studies that ADHD occurs in 4.4% of the adult population. We also know frorm the latest avalable WA report that the number of adults taking medication for ADHD is lower than 0.5%. So why are we constantly fed misinformation about over-prescription when the condition is clearly under-diagnosed and under-treated? We also know from the substantial research available that people with ADHD have a greater risk of developing other mental illnesses, including Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. Untreated, people with ADHD find themselves with significant difficulties in the workplace, at university and in personal relationships.

One thing we do know, is that people whose ADHD is properly managed can be extremely successful members of society. In fact, the world needs people with ADHD - big picture thinkers with mountains of energy and an endless supply of wonderful ideas. Sadly, as a result of today's article on pg 13, people diagnosed with ADHD will find it even harder to disclose their conditions to friends and colleagues and ask for their support. They will feel less inclined to see their doctors about troubling symptoms. Many will try to soldier on alone. They were not even given the telephone number of the only evidence-based support group in the state. So here it is: (08) 9346-7544. Call LADS if you need to speak to someone who knows what you're going through, and how upsetting articles like today's pg 13 can be. I have made a request of the West Australian - that future articles on ADHD focus on the research and not the opinions of a politician.

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