While I'm on the subject of articles in today's newspaper, there was a disturbing report on the quadruple increase in prescriptions for Ritalin for children in the last ten years (P4, The Observer, also see previous posting on Madness and Jon Ronson).
One interesting point in the article mentioned a report commissioned by the RSPB, which suggested an improvement in the behaviour of children diagnosed with ADHD, when exposed to outdoor activities in nature.
I remember reading an article some time back, not sure where now, but it was about patients in mental hospitals during the war. Apparently, they moved them outdoors to make room for the injured soldiers coming back from the war, and what they found was, that being outdoors helped to restore the mental health of a lot of the patients, and in some cases, people improved so much that they were discharged and no longer needed treatment.
It seems like common sense that being closer to nature has a beneficial effect on our mental health, after all, we are animals and part of the natural world, even if we like to think we are in some way superior to the rest of the life on the planet. Maybe, if we maintained our link to nature more, then we might have less stress and depression among the general population. Unfortunately, when it comes to treatment the medical model alone prevails.
It does require more of an effort to get in touch with nature these days especially for those who live in cities. I was lucky enough to grow up in an area and at a time, when there was a lot less technology, fewer cars, and we had fields to run about in. That same area now is surrounded by houses and industrial estates, and you couldn't move on the street for cars. Which is really unfortunate for the children who live there now, they don’t even know what they are missing. Another interesting statistic I read about a few years ago in relation to children’s mental health and well being, was that in the boom years in Ireland, that mental health problems in children increased in perfect correlation to the increase in wealth. Maybe less really is more!
I also worked as an OTC assistant in a pharmacy a few years ago, and the two biggest sellers were Soluble Solpadeine and Nurofen Plus. Both these items walked off the shelves daily. Both contain codeine which can be addictive, and which can only be obtained with a prescription in the US. I also read an article not long ago, where a member of the Irish Parliament was calling for regulation to control the availability of these and similar products, because she said, the country was self-medicating with them. As far as I know, nothing has been done about it yet.
This all makes for disturbing reading in relation to the health and well being of all of us and should really make us question what kind of society we are creating when we allow our children to be treated in this way. If we continue down this road, then I think we are storing up some serious social problems for the future.
I can only hope that the time is coming when we will start facing up to our social responsibilities and really start addressing the issues that are affecting the population, because if David Cameron wants to build a big society then he would do well to remember, that in order to build anything you need to start with a solid foundation, and the foundation for any society is the well-being of its people.