Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Zoloft Magic Or Poor Public Relations?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 11, 2012



Nona, Carol’s mom, came to tell me that I “saved her daughter’s life. You just don’t know how hard it was for me to find you. I saw so many specialists and no one suggested Zoloft, yet it has made such a big difference, I just can’t tell you.”  Nona tells me with glorious praise. “I appreciate the gratitude, but I also feel terrible that you had such trouble finding the right kind of physician to help Carol. I wish there were a public relations campaign which helped the lay public understand that if their kid has extreme worries, then there is relief available.” I said, thinking that both the professional community and the lay public are unclear as to how children suffer from anxiety and how there is relief available. “Child Psychiatry should launch a campaign like the anti-smoking advertisements, which let people know that cigarettes were dangerous.” I say, articulating my fantasy to Nona. “Yes, but it is hard to prove the damages with an anxious kids. People die from cigarettes, but with kids there is no tangible problem with anxiety.” Nona explains to me in a way that makes tremendous sense. “Yes, it is not like kids end up in a wheelchair because they did not get Zoloft. The crippling of anxiety is much more subtle than that.” I say, knowing that in some ways mental illness is invisible in our society, yet in other ways, like when kids have no friends or they have multiple negative self-statements, mental illness is painfully visible. “Maybe you should just accept the gratitude,” Nona tells me, as if I am being self-deprecating. “I appreciate what you are saying, and I do feel good that I have helped Carol, but I also feel bad about your journey with Carol before you landed in my office. Both the educational institutions and the multiple medical professionals all sent you down blind alleys. I wish they had sent you to a child psychiatrist in the beginning of your journey since that would have saved you and Carol a great deal of grief.” I say, wondering why child psychiatry can be so obscure to so many people in the field of child welfare. I do want to see a public relations campaign which educates people about Child Psychiatry, in that we help children enjoy their lives so that they can grow and develop in the best possible way.

6 Responses to “Zoloft Magic Or Poor Public Relations?”

  1. Jon said

    Perhaps I am being naïve, but I would have thought that if one had a child, and that child had a psychological or psychiatric condition, then the correct course of action would be to see a child psychologist or a child psychiatrist.

    Perhaps there is a stigma in acknowledging such a condition; however, that would not explain the circuitous route that brought Nona and Carol into your office. Or does it? Was Carol’s anxiety properly diagnosed before she came to see you? If not, why not? If so, did she see you soon after that diagnosis?

    • Shirah said

      A child who has no friends can be referred to social workers, MFTs, psychologists, pediatric neurologists, behavioral pediatricians and/or child psychiatrists. Depending on the referral, a family can be sent in a number of different directions. Medication is often not considered for children, since many people do not look for childhood anxiety as a cause of poor friendships. There is an issue of stigma, but this is not the whole story. No, Carol was not seen as anxious prior to coming to see me. She was thought to be on the autistic spectrum because her anxieties were so severe, she could not calm down enough to engage in social interactions. Thanks, as always.

    • Shelly said

      Jon, you took the words right out of my mouth!

  2. Shelly said

    I think your PR campaign should also include schools. Guidance counselors and teachers are the first people in touch with parents, who first notice anything out of the ordinary in school. They often notify the parents of things that occur that the parents never would have known about otherwise. In my experience, other than Ritalin (in all its forms) schools do not advocate for medication, though.

    • Shirah said

      YES! Schools need to have a better understanding of childhood anxiety disorders. I am going to think about how I think this should be done in order to expand the understanding of how children suffer, and the tools for relief that is available.

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