The Avoidable Death of Rebecca Riley
In Chapter 10, “The Avoidable Death of Rebecca Riley,” Jon Ronson explains the evolutionary process of the DSM handbook and how it has impacted many people’s lives by labeling ordinary behaviors as mental disorders. Ronson attends a Scientology banquet and listens to the cheers of people applauding Lady Margaret McNair for naming normal behaviors people do and diagnosing them as mental disorders that can be found in the newest edition of DSM. He researches how the DSM was formed and finds that Robert Spitzer created DSM to be used as a personal handbook for people to compare their behavioral characteristics to checklists of different mental disorders in order to diagnose themselves. Speaking with Allen Frances, Ronson is told that the DSM created 3 false epidemics, the most popular being childhood bipolar disorder. Many people diagnose children with bipolar disorder because the behavior of the child matches many of the characteristics on the checklist. However, Ronson knows that many of these behaviors are actually ordinary and playful childhood behaviors. He speaks with Byrna who has a son who’s been diagnosed as bipolar and has been taking medication for it for 10 years. Ronson believes that her child, like many others, has been inaccurately diagnosed. Lastly, Ronson emphasizes that misdiagnosing children as bipolar is harmful to their development by telling the tragedy of Rebecca Riley and how the 4 year old died of an accidental overdose of bipolar medication that she was given by her parents. Ronson states that her death would be avoidable if Rebecca’s mother wasn’t falsely diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so that her mother wouldn’t have the medication in the first place.
I think that the DSM should not be used as a device for people to diagnose themselves. It would just make a lot of people go crazy believing that they have a mental disorder that they most likely do not have. I think it is ironic that they wouldn't diagnose a psychopath in DSM because they don't want to unreliably measure psychopath's traits when they are diagnosing many other mental disorders with ambiguous characteristics. I think my favorite part of this whole book is when Tony makes an avatar on x-box of one of the nurses and makes her look like a zombie, and especially when Ronson responds with his own comment that his son had made zombie looking avatars of him and he thought it was funny. THEY'RE FUNNY!!! I don't know if it's too soon for Tony to be making jokes about being a psychopath when he finally is released from Broadmoor, but I find his humor extremely entertaining. I'm glad Tony got out! I hope he makes good decisions. I still don't understand the mystery of Being or Nothingness. It is clever that they put 21 filled pages and 21 blank pages in it though. Oh, Jon Ronson. What a wise guy!