It's been said that science fiction can sometimes turn into science fact.

In that same vein, it may be that stories from The Onion (More U.S. Children Being Diagnosed With Youthful Tendency Disorder) may one day become part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

While mental disorders are clearly a serious problem, even if the World Health Organization says they are(1), a questionnaire about kids probably isn't going to be the way to prevent them. Even sillier would be using a genetic test to make the determination that a misbehaving kid is mentally ill.

Yet that is part of what Thomas R. Insel, MD, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) said during his talk, "What Every Pediatrician Needs to Know about Mental Disorders," last weekend at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston during the American Academy of Pediatrics' Presidential Plenary address.

We just raked those leaves! Get her into therapy now. Credit: The Onion

While it's wonderful to absolve parents of responsibility if their kids act up, we've seen what happens with ADD and autism when diagnoses about kids become popular fads. Creating yet another mental disorder for Jenny McCarthy to latch onto seems a little much.  Yet Insel seems comfortable calling behavioral problems mental illness and says mental illnesses are a developmental brain disorder.

He's not a crank nobody, this is director of the NIMH and he chairs the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "The future of mental illness has to be at the point where we aren't treating behavior separately from the rest of the person," he said. "There needs to be full integration of behavior and medical concerns to ensure that we are able to care for the whole person and not just one system."

Which is positively Oprah-esque in its innocuous nature (who wouldn't clap at saying we need to care for 'the whole person'?) but accepting questionnaires as a valid way to screen for mental illness is sketchy enough.  Ill-equipped psychiatrists overanalyzing peptides sounds even worse. But before his current job he was founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at Emory University so perhaps he has biology envy.  And if your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see a lot of nails.


If you think that sentence structure is a mistake, take a moment and think about it.