Easter Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:54 pm on 29th March 2018.

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Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian 3:54 pm, 29th March 2018

It is great to speak just before the recess to support my colleague in Holyrood, Daniel Johnson MSP, in his campaign to find proper support for those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I am proud to sponsor early-day motion 1112, which refers to an unfortunate documentary distributed by Netflix entitled “Take Your Pills”. Here in the UK, there are too many people who wait too long for diagnosis and the support they do receive is fragmented and ineffective. Those diagnosed with ADHD deserve our respect and support and their contribution to society is enormous and truly valued.

The situation for young people is even more desperate. Across the House, we are aware of the needs of all young people, as is our whole society. The difference is that within this House we can do something to make a difference. ADHD carries a stigma occasioned sometimes by ignorance and, in some cases, by fear. A lifetime with ADHD should be not a lifetime lost but a lifetime saved. ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder and there is no doubt that with the right combination of understanding and care, the benefits to individuals and society are clear. When it goes wrong, the results can sadly be dramatic.

With the right support, those who live with the condition can achieve anything—they include Olympic athletes, Michelin-starred chefs, entrepreneurs, doctors, artists and even MPs—but most importantly those who are diagnosed, if properly supported, can lead happy fulfilling lives rather than feeling alone and unsupported, and being more at risk of bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. That brings me to my early-day motion and the Netflix documentary. Those behind the documentary might well have been well intentioned, and the programme could have taken a positive approach to ADHD, but unfortunately it failed to do so. The documentary looked at the medication prescribed to those diagnosed to help manage their condition, but the language it chose to use and the comparison with unregulated and illegal drugs paints a far from real picture of the medication. The documentary makes little attempt to show the effects of the medication when prescribed, compared with when the same medication was abused by those without a diagnosis. Indeed, taking the medication for other reasons would be illegal in the US.

Diagnosis of ADHD should lead to treatment to help relieve the symptoms and make the condition much less of a problem in day-to-day life. ADHD can be treated using medication or therapy, but, as the NHS advises, it is often best done with a combination of both. Medication is not a cure for ADHD, but it may help someone with the condition concentrate better, be less impulsive, feel calmer, and learn and practise new skills. Treatments that include therapy go beyond medication, and indeed the therapy and strategies apply not only to those who suffer from ADHD but to their families and teachers and to the communities around them. I congratulate the Scottish ADHD Coalition on its employers’ guide to ADHD in the workplace.

The documentary is clumsy. Medication for those diagnosed is important and misuse of medication is dangerous. On behalf of people who are diagnosed with ADHD, I would like to say first, among many things, that ADHD is real. It is not cured by drugs. Treatment can help manage the condition. It is not a condition of hyperactive boys. There is a prevalence among boys, but girls can also have ADHD. That is important, because in later life gender bias in relation to ADHD can lead to late diagnosis and poorer support.

Much still needs to be said, but let me finish by expressing my thanks to those who worked on #Born to be ADHD, to the all-party parliamentary group in Parliament and, on a personal note, to Daniel Johnson MSP, who is my friend and who has ADHD.

I want to wish us all a peaceful Easter. At a time when people’s thoughts are about others and the strength of hope, please remember that people with ADHD are not different—they are exceptional.