This month's edition of Psychiatric Annals, guest edited by Richard Balon, MD, focuses on the treatment of psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents. We associate hope and future life with children and young people just as we do with the spring season. In the high desert country of Santa Fe, one can see the early signs of spring in the budding leaves of birch trees, plants sprouting through the soil and even the more upright posture and early flowers of the vast variety of cactus plants: life is proliferating once more.
Once again war is brewing and the scent of death arouses the war god. Up until the turn of the century war was described as an honorable test of one's mettle and as a grand game. Stephen Crane captured the bloody horror of the Civil War in The Red Badge of Courage. He described the "thousand tongues of fear" in the soldiers' thoughts, and visualized war equipment as beasts raging at one another and regiments as war machines that produced a trail of corpses. Now once again, war is increasingly visualized by our defense experts and youth alike as a video game with sounds and images. They feel they can watch the game's outcome on a crystal display screen without personal danger or involvement, waging war by pushing buttons while maintaining a safe and analytical distance. No matter the challenge to this delusion posed by the attacks of 9/11.
The good news as embodied in this series of articles is that we are learning to treat the most severe of psychiatric disturbances in children and adolescents with improving outcomes as knowledge progresses. However, the social psychosis of war and violence continues to recur like the seasons, the destructive ante increasing as our video game technology advances. It is our young people who will be sacrificed to the war god, this beautiful life-giving spring.
Science doesn't seem to be saving us from this fate, which continues to recur, instead we're moving toward video game-sized nukes. Medical science is being used to develop more virulent bacteria and viruses and efficient means of their dispersal, or defenses against these horrors. This perversion of science easily trumps the gains we make in reducing of suffering.
Perhaps we all should join in a chorus of Imagine, or better yet, how about our government establishing National Institute of Peace Sciences with a budget at least equal to our military development budget. This would be a huge step forward in the evolution of homo sapiens. After all, as our President says, it's "our money."