[ASC-media] Australia doing harm to young minds; deadly medications; brain injury sets back social skills.

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Wed Sep 13 01:42:56 CEST 2006

Australia doing harm to young minds; deadly medications; brain injury
sets back social skills... 

Wednesday's stories from the international child mental health
conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre include:

Child brain injury sets back social skills

A study more than 200 children who suffered severe head injuries - often
in car accidents - shows they do not recover as well as adults, says
director of psychology at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital,
Professor Vicki Anderson. While mobility and speech can improve,
children's social skills do not get better, unlike adults who have
established skills and networks. "The areas of the brain affected are
very much the areas important to good social skills, so if you have an
injury your social skills will be impaired." The 10-year study of
patients has led researchers to give parents and families increased
skills to cope with the affected child, and understand why their child
is struggling and behave in a certain way. 

How deadly are medications for children?

There is no evidence that stimulant medications given to children with
ADHD increase the risk of deadly heart complications, says the Honorary
Professor of Child Psychiatry at Sydney University Joseph Rey. But older
drugs given as anti-depressants can have cardiotoxic effects, and
anti-psychotic medication can lead to weight gain, diabetes and cardiac
risks. For all medications, it is important to have close monitoring,
Professor Rey says. "One can never assume a drug is completely harmless
because sometimes it takes 20 years to identify a problem."

Terrorism, disaster and child mental health

How prepared is Australia for disaster and terrorism, and how will
children cope? A key session will describe the preparation for and
response to potential terrorism, and ask whether the child and
adolescent mental health system is adequately prepared.

Serious harm to child refugees detained by Australia

There is clear evidence that serious harm is being done to children
detained by the Australian Government's mandatory detention policy, says
the director of the NSW Institute of Psychiatry Louise Newman. Since
1991, about 3000 children, including unaccompanied minors, have been
detained. "The price that is being paid in psychological and emotional
harm is too great," Dr Newman said. "This is a policy that will not go
away. We need a radical rethink from a penal model to a health and
welfare model."

A perplexing disorder - parents fabricating illness
Munchausen syndrome by proxy - a condition in which a person (usually a
parent) fabricates medical illness in another (usually their child) - is
difficult to comprehend, often missed clinically and very difficult to
manage when it eventually is diagnosed. When the condition is missed it
often leads to unwarranted and intrusive investigation or hospital
admission. When it is diagnosed, the suspected parent invariably denies
involvement, may either temporarily cease the behaviour or find another
medical service, and is very resistant to psychiatric involvement. This
is an update of what is known and guidelines for treating patients.

Media inquiries: Jo Gajewski: 0429 388 822, jo at scienceinpublic.com or
Tom Noble, 0408 332 880, tomnoble at hotmail.com, further information


Niall Byrne
Science in Public
Ph +61 3 5253 1391
niall at scienceinpublic.com
OR niallprivate at scienceinpublic.com
PO Box 199, Drysdale Vic Australia

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