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Oprah: "Explosive Children"

Media Review, Feb. 18, 2000

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Updated November 24, 2006

On February 18, 2000, The Oprah Winfrey Show presented "Explosive Children." This show examined the difficulties and the day-to-day struggles for families of and children diagnosed with bipolar disorder (manic depression), attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit with hyperactivity (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Special guests for this show included Demitri Papolos, M.D. and Janice Papolos (authors of The Bipolar Child), Ross Greene, Ph.D. (author of The Explosive Child), and Danielle Steel (author of His Bright Light, The Story of Nick Traina).

Key Issues Covered Were:

Personal Stories Included: Often media presentations of these very real conditions highlight only the violence and the out-of-control behavior of raging children. Sensationalism sells - as was apparent when 20/20 covered a similar story shortly before this show of Oprah's. Incomplete pictures like the one given by 20/20, rather than educating the general public, instead add to the stigma of mental illness and exacerbate the difficulties already so prevalent in our social relationships. Not so with this Oprah show! This was a balanced look at children of various ages and conditions, including sensible information about treatment options available to parents. Interviews with parents and children who had improved with treatment were also presented to give hope to parents who are still struggling.

Janice Papolos shared with us that "the producers of the show were the most sensitive, lovely people who really cared that the correct message got out. They put this entire show together in 7 days and didn't even go to sleep for the last two nights! The taped pieces and montages are beautifully and artfully done and there is so much sympathy shown for the children and the parents." The Papoloses themselves managed to pack a lot of excellent information into their time on the air, as did Dr. Greene, whose "three basket" approach makes enormous sense; and the interview with Danielle Steel was a heartbreaking reminder of the reasons why people with bipolar disorder must not wantonly discontinue medications.

We applaud Oprah and her staff for presenting the very real and difficult aspects of these disorders while also illustrating, with beautiful success stories, the immensely treatable nature of these conditions. We hope more such responsible television journalism will be forthcoming from other programs. Many thanks to the person who emailed to let us know that the resources from this program were again available on the internet.

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