Pepper: it sounds like you have been through the mill as a parent and I am glad things are better for you and your daughter. Your experiences with medication and (mis)diagnosis are reflective of the sad state of our knowledge base about psychiatric illness in children and about the lack of adequate care available. As we all know, taking care of the mentally ill is not a priority in this country (probably not anywhere). And there is a distinct national shortage of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists. This will guarantee me a job forevermore but I could do with losing this particular popularity contest. What an amazing story.
Ren.kat--You do ask the tough questions. Child Psych journals and conferences do daily battles over what is Bipolar Disorder in Children. I am convinced it exists as are most Child Psychiatrists but it is also diagnosed in some kids (and adults) who do not really have it. One tactic scientists have used is to study the children of Bipolar parents. It is clear that some of the kids have classical bipolar symptoms but others do not. There are also kids who look a bit Bipolar but may not have the full illness. We do not know what they will grow up to have (if anything). In my profession, there is a split between the narrow definition of bipolarity in children (essentially same symptoms as in adults) and the broad (basically kids who are explosive and impulsive but do not have clear cut mania or mood cycles). One issue brought on by managed care is: no diagnosis, no treatment. So at times, people get labels because "I don't know what you have" won't get you health care.
I haven't heard anything to suggest that most of the kids who were involved in school shootings were or are Bipolar. Much was made in the press of the discovery that a few had received psychiatric treatment and/or medication. I wholeheartedly agree with the concern about stigma and do not want to add to any perception that the mentally ill are necessarily more violent than other people. But some Bipolar kids can be quite mouthy and I do have to defend their right to get back into school after they say something inflammatory.
Regarding racial issues, I was going to make the point that most of the shooters were white but deleted it after realizing that the one teen was American Indian, so as to not make broad racial comments myself. I'm not really all that knowledgeable about the details of violence within inner city schools. Of course, these spectacularly violent episodes in schools would never have happened if the kids were unable to readily get their hands on guns. But that is a topic for another post.
I did a (little) research on this theme before posting and discovered that they are having troubles with school shootings in Germany, as well. I guess the U.S.A. does not have the monopoly on this brand of human ugliness.
m.m.crow: I'll look for the book you mention. My motto in life is "so many books, so little time."
Thanks to you all for your interest and comments. This is what makes blogging fun.