Author Judith Warner(center) with Director of Organizational Advancement, Kerry Flathers and CEO Michael Ames.
Judith Warner spoke to a diverse and committed group of parents, educators and psychologists Thursday, September 22, 21016 in the Janeway Auditorium. Judith – the author of several books including We’ve Got Issues which she spoke about last night – is a speaker brought to Perkins through the Kids Matter – Perkins Partners in Mental Health series funded in part by the Shine Initiative.
“It is because of the generosity and support of the SHINE Initiative that we are able to offer parents, educators, and others this opportunity to be better educated about mental health and associated stigma,” Director of Organizational Advancement Kerry Flathers said.
The rapt crowd listened as Judith spoke about her book We’ve Got Issues and the many paths she traveled from concept to publication. When Judith started writing We’ve Got Issues in 2004, she self- admittedly bought into the belief that ADHD, bi-polar and mild forms of autism were “fashionable maladies” of questionable reality created by affluent parents of neurotic kids. When the book came out in 2010 – 5 years after originally planned – she had changed her thinking dramatically. She describes the writing of this book as an odyssey.
“I learned in the course of my conversations with many people, that, in fact, much of what I believed to be true was simply wrong,” Judith said. She went on to explain that she now needed a baseline reality to answer some of her questions around popular rhetoric and what she had believed versus the truth of what many children and parents were experiencing.
“What I learned is that fears and the belief in the cultural norm was more on display than the actual truth to over diagnosing and overmedicating,” Judith said. “The many parents I spoke to with troubled children were not rushing to medication and diagnosis. Often, it was exactly the opposite.”
Judith believes that what we see as helicopter parenting and parents fighting for their kid’s rights above that of others are actually a reaction to the menace people feel in the world today. “Many believe that childhood has disappeared from the American experience, and that the level of human acceptability is off the rails,” she said. “We blatantly distrust the rich and we believe that parents are absent or uncaring, and at the same time, somehow, overbearing.”
Judith believes that if we were to hold a mirror to society, we would learn that we are in a brave new world – a world or realm of radically transformed existence, especially one in which technological progress has both positive and negative results – this is especially true for our children. “Years ago we blamed moms for kids problems,” Judith said. “Now we blame society. Neither is true.”
One brave audience member asked “How do we change the cultural narrative?” Judith responded, “Change will happen over time with the change of the generations. For the first time, I am working with millennials, and I can see a drastic shift. These young adults have grown up with a better understanding of differences, and are becoming the future of journalism both as reporters and editors. As they start to control the media, things will change. I also believe parents need to speak out to people they care about because it is harder to negate the experiences of someone you love.”
The power of young people to change the stigma is being reversed, and they are becoming empowered through training and a deeper understanding and more compassion for differences. Judith believes that little by little with help from parents and educators the cultural norm will change for the better.
We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication received a 2010 Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a 2011 Changing Lives Award from the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, and a 2012 Friends of Children’s Mental Health Media Award from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.