October is Global ADHD Awareness Month, as well as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both have great significance for me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and ADHD was the focus of my PhD, so I know a fair bit about both conditions, and their treatments. I have also observed the portrayal of each condition in the media, particularly during this important month.
The West Australian newspaper, for example, must be congratulated for excellent support of breast cancer awareness. Pink front pages, numerous educational articles, and patients’ stories have all alerted the public to the seriousness of the condition, as well as the importance of early detection and treatment. Experts are regularly consulted, and Australian oncologists are portrayed as competent, caring, cutting-edge physicians – which they are indeed. By contrast, discussions in the media about ADHD focus almost exclusively on the medications used to treat it. Experts are rarely quoted, and the views of unqualified politicians are constantly given preference. Psychiatrists and paediatricians are regarded with suspicion. There is little attempt to educate the public about the seriousness of untreated ADHD.
ADHD medication featured on the front page of the West Australian last week, as well as in the Age (Age 5 Oct). However, the alarming side effects of my cancer drugs have never received that attention. This puzzles me. Among other things, the first medication I was prescribed decreased my bone density to a point where I had to stop taking it. Possible risks associated with my current medication include Deep Vein Thrombosis, Uterine Cancer, and Blindness.
WA’s new federal MP is requesting a review of government funding for an ADHD medication (West 4 Oct). This concerns me. You see, I have made the decision to continue my cancer treatment, after a balanced, informed discussion with my expert oncologist. I would therefore hate the government to stop funding it. In the same way, people with ADHD deserve the right to make informed decisions about their treatment after discussing all options with their ADHD medical expert.
The Sydney Morning Herald also joined the chorus, with a shameful heading that described children on ADHD medication as "Zombie Kids" (SMH 5 Oct). This term has created a potential situation where children with ADHD will be even more bullied in the playground. It is time for this irresponsible, uninformed, unkind reporting to stop. Which means that it is time for the College of Physicians, the College of Psychiatrists, as well as State and Federal Health Departments, to start providing factual, reasonable, and relevant information for the public when it comes to ADHD.