Are our children being criminalized for behaviors caused by bipolar disorder?

United States
August 8, 2007 3:57pm CST
My 14-year old son was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had worried about it for years as his father has bipolar along with several members of his family. Now that he officially has the diagnosis, I have been doing extensive research on bipolar in adolescence and let me tell son could have his picture next to the definition! For those who don't know, adolescents tend not to have the distinct periods of up and down associated with adult victims of the disease. Instead they usually exhibit more of a mix which induces a chronic irritability. They also show more risk-taking behaviors along with extreme defiance of authority among other things. I have been to court with him several times for behaviors stemming from his illness and have more court dates ahead of us. The charges all have stemmed from behaviors exhibited at school such as "threatening to commit a crime" where he told a boy he was going to punch him. I have tried talking to the school about his illness and ways they can calm him down but instead it's like they go out of their way to escalate him until he's completely out of control. It's been an extremely frustrating year for us. We now have a GAL (guardian ad litum) appointed for him to help deal with the school and advocate for him. We are trying to get him get into a local collaborative school that deals with children with similar issues. I have no faith in the school he's in right now because of how they ignored his 504 plan and wouldn't listen to me. I'd love to hear from other parents with similar issues for bipolar adolescents and any ideas you've tried for dealing with uncooperative schools.
1 person likes this
2 responses
@KrauseHome (35517)
• United States
22 Nov 07
Wow!! Sorry to hear about this situation with your Son and school. It is a shame that there are so many people out there still that are Blind to Mental Illness issues, especially in the schools, and try to blame the issues on the parents, or lock up their kids and that will solve all of the issues. Maybe some day this will change, but until then, all we can do, is sit and wait. Good Luck with your situation.
• United States
10 Aug 07
We have an adolescent daughter who is in process of being diagnosed as Bipolar. Her mother has the disease, however, the region we live in seems to shy away from the actual diagnosis until the patients get older. We have had numerous run ins with school officials. She has an individual education plan to give her a chance to complete school.....but the truth is, most school districts are not equipped to handle mental illness in their students. We had to resort to inpatient residential care for our daughter. She is back home with us now, but while she was in care, they helped her with her behaviors, taught classes with small student levels, along with heavy counseling. Nothing but a interdisciplinary team of help will really help bipolars live quality lives. So much goes on at one time, it all needs attention. Trying to fix just one aspect of behaviors without attention or support to others will lead to frustration for everyone. This is just my opinion of course, and only my experience with the disease and institutions. Feel free to message really does help to network and support one another.
• United States
11 Aug 07
I'm sorry it took so long to respond to your comment...I've been working and then a wedding today. My son hasn't had any hospitalizations up to this point but is in counseling. It's not just your region shying away from early diagnosis. Many people still believe the disease only affects adults plus so many disorders can mimic or mask the symptoms of bipolar. My son has been previously diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional-defiance disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A lot depends on the doctor and their experience with adolescent bipolar. I would love to message and network. I am thinking of starting a group at or even a blog here at mylot for parents of bipolar children...I will get in touch as soon as I get a setting for the group. I really think it would be good to be able to share ideas and support one another. Talk to you soon, Tina