Cruising through the Globe and Mail my husband* noticed a full page ad picturing a five-year-old boy, carefree and running with a rainbow-colored kite. The caption below stated “Helping kids be healthy inside and out” and the recognizable logo was the golden lion grasping the globe: RBC.
The ad was clearly advertising happiness, especially for five-year-olds, so curiosity led to a closer scrutiny of the connection between big banking and delighted children.
The answer: RBC’s Children’s Mental Health Project.
The ad begins with the statement: “One in five Canadian children suffers from a mental illness.” It conspicuously lacks a definition of “mental illness”, though the cited study occurred in Ontario 25 years ago and included among the “mental illnesses” emotional and behavioral problems relatively common in our society among many children.
Though there may be infrequent cases of true mental illness in young children, mental illness in the frequency described is certainly not defensible. This is what makes it so incredible that even now Ontario schools are beginning an initiative to screen for mental illness in young children, to ‘catch them early’. Unfortunately, for most children “identified” in the mental health system, an inside look will show the most common approach is medication use.
How have we come to the place as a culture where children – normal, crazy, spunky, loud, frustrating, beautiful children – can only be ‘controlled’ and helped to ‘function’ by the use of medication, as though they were ill? Could it be that our dysfunctional culture is both creating ‘problem children’ and willing to press down the real, vital and dynamic presence of children who can’t handle sitting in desks all day, or being carted from lesson to lesson at the end of an already long day, or can’t handle the MSG-laden garbage from the school cafeteria?
Why are we not equipping and encouraging parents in the difficult jobs of building strong marriages, raising healthy children and creating safe homes, instead of pushing the whole family into the sterile arms of experts who will happily sell their children’s future to Big-Pharma?
So, there’s an opinion.
Made me ponder:
Why is a big bank sponsoring a mental health initiative for children?
Why might advertisers choose a picture of a five-year-old in an ad referring to “mental illness” when mental illnesses symptoms most commonly present in 18-30 year olds?
Is the boy in the ad healthy, or mentally ill but treated, or harboring a serious mental illness ready to surface but for the humanitarian generosity of Canada’s wealthiest financial institution (donating 0.0006% of its yearly assets)?
My young children have volatile emotions and behavior problems. Should they see an expert? Do they need medication? Is my two-year-old bipolar? (Is any two-year-old not bipolar?)
*Full Disclosure: I’ve developed some of my opinions in frequent conversations with an unconventional, brilliant local child Psychiatrist (who is also the father of all my children).