Help Stop Psychiatric Overdiagnosis: demand exploration for neuroimmune disorders

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Rebecca Slater
Rebecca Slater signed this petition

Frighteningly, a sizable number of Americans are wrongly diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, when in fact they are suffering from a curable health or neurological condition. With nearly all of our families impacted by increasing mental illness rates, we must do all we can to minimize misdiagnosis. Please join us in demanding that the National Institute of Health (NIH) increase research funding and legislative actions to ensure that neurological, infectious and autoimmunes causes for psychiatric-like symptoms are promptly and properly diagnosed and treated.

 Your support can have a profound and even life-saving impact on countless people and loved ones suffering from psychiatric symptoms, due to silent medical triggers.

CDC displays the following sobering statement on its website: 1 in 6 children, aged 2-8 years has a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. 

The numbers are no different regarding adults, with 1 in 5 over the age of 18 living with a diagnosed mental illness, per the NIMH. This amounts to a whopping 46.6 million American adults and 17.1 million children.

Indeed, escalating rates of behavioral and psychiatric illness among our youth in recent years is startling and devastating. Most terrifying - within the last decade, suicides among children have tripled!

Misdiagnosis is one likely cause.  I myself, as a child psychologist, am aware of several youth suicides due to incorrect diagnosis and treatment.  We must acknowledge and STOP further tragedy.

Research has shown that psychiatric symptoms can result from neuroimmune and inflammatory causes. Yet, despite these advancements, psychiatric diagnostic procedures remain archaic and out-of-date.  Diagnosis is based solely on behaviors with little to no exploration of the body or brain.  Even worse, many psychiatrists and physicians will deny parent requests to explore for underlying conditions. Without proper exploration and treatment, unrecognized brain illness is sadly claiming countless childhoods and lives.

If not for my own six year-old son's frightening psychiatric deterioration due to a medical cause, I may not have believed this and certainly would not be writing today.  While I would prefer to remain private, I feel that it is my ethical responsibility as a psychologist, witnessing multitudes of those living in needless pain, to speak out and effect change. The proof is too great to ignore.

I speak out for my son. He was a model child and student. Then over a short few months, aggressive, hyperactive, and autism-like episodes appeared. They progressively increased and intensified. The boy I knew was no more. His light left his eyes, smiles were scarce and were replaced with scowls and screams. Sleep escaped him as did joy, connection and motivation. Food was thrown on the floor together with chairs, papers, and anything and everything. My once joyful, intelligent and kind-hearted boy wanted to die and leave his world of psychic pain. 

For my friend's child. He stopped moving, appearing catatonic and frozen with crippling obsessive thoughts and worries. He could no longer effectively communicate, attend school or make rational decisions and began experiencing seizures.

For a college friend, who behaved erratically and irresponsibly. She was an adult mother and wife often hanging out late at night with questionable crowds, having rages and was no longer reasonable.

For a cousin's classmate with new onset depression and anxiety.

And a family member's neighbor, hospitalized with suicidal attempts and anorexia.

And a colleague's niece with uncontrollable rage, aggression and migraines.

And my friend's nephew with anxiety, panic and behavioral and social regression.

All of these individuals, with clear psychiatric symptoms, met criteria for one or more mental illnesses. BUT it was the parents, spouses and the occasional astute provider who fought for an underlying trigger. Only through searching, questioning and exploring, the answers for anxiety, depression, aggression, rage and so on became clear. They were found to actually suffer from undiagnosed Lupus, Celiac Disease, Lyme Disease, Hashimotos, Autoimmune Encephalitis, Psychiatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep (PANDAS/PANS). Unbelievable as it sounds, with the proper diagnosis and treatment these once very sick people are mentally healthy today.

Yes, my son, who was so ill, has returned!  His sparkling smile, light-heartedness, good-humor and zest for life bring me immeasurable happiness, marred only by the knowledge that so many with curable conditions are still suffering.

And so I speak out for the countless families, children and loved ones I meet facing untold mental agony and distress. Nearly all of these individuals were diagnosed with psychiatric illness, often several, without a comprehensive examination for underlying medical issues. Diagnosing the brain without examining the body is unconscionable today.

The risks - to the individual, the family, the community and society as a whole - are too grave and potentially life-threatening for us to just stand by.  Educators, doctors, family members, mental health providers and each one of us can begin to make a meaningful difference by acknowledging that untreated health disorders can trigger serious psychiatric presentations, which then can lead to  permanently altered childhoods and lives, unwarranted psychiatric hospitalizations, ineffective and risky psychotropic treatments and even death. 

Full recovery is truly possible for so many of our psychiatrically ill loved ones. If only we seek, we shall find...and cure.

PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE THIS PETITION directed to the NIH to demand increased research and medical exploration into our recognition and treatment of NEUROIMMUNE disorders. We must join together to bring our families - our nation - one step closer to health! Many thanks.