The Miami Herald recently reported yet another tragedy in the foster care system: in June 2017, Florida foster child Giulianna Ramos Bermudez committed suicide by hanging herself. As is so common in the foster care system, Giulianna was in therapy and was being forced to take a powerful antipsychotic drug, pointing out the need for a re-evaluation of this treatment model.
The article points out that Giulianna’s suicide is the third in less than a year for Florida’s foster care system. Lauryn Marten killed herself on December 20, 2016 and Naika Venant killed herself on January 22, 2017 on Facebook Live. Naika had also been taking psychiatric drugs, one of which carries an FDA Black Box warning for suicidal ideations.
Why are these deaths happening? In the case of Giulianna, there is an ongoing investigation in progress which will examine the role of medical treatment—including the role of the psychiatric drugs she had been prescribed. Hopefully, the examination will include looking at the 113 warnings from nine countries and the European Union and the 212 studies from 35 countries warning that antipsychotics can cause severe side effects including suicide/suicide risk, mania, aggression, hallucinations, and even death.
What has happened? For most Americans, from the day we entered preschool or kindergarten, we were taught to sing patriotic songs that directly or indirectly spoke of American values and promises for its people. These American values and promises may have originally been part of the creation of the foster care system by people who saw a picture of equality and freedom and prosperity and brotherhood, and justice for all.
But we fast forward to current societal practices at every level of our humanness, it has become increasingly evident that there are severe rips and tears in the fabric of America as related to foster care. Unfortunately, and generationally, these rips and tears allow some children to slip through and disappear into the weave. Circumstances bringing about these rips and tears were impossible for our forefathers to anticipate.
In the earlier days of foster care in America, most children were abused, treated as slaves, and disrespected. When state and government agencies became involved with the placement and care of these children, noticeable differences in the experiences of the foster child were few. Social service agencies, state agencies, and government agencies continue to struggle, with answers and solutions to the many challenges that plague most foster care systems in America today.
And so this gap in the lack of vision and ability to solve these problems provides an avenue for psychiatry and their pharmaceutical partnerships to come to the rescue with subjective diagnoses and psychotropic drugs. And to further complicate matters, there are no testing instruments that are capable of measuring and insuring a caregiver’s character, integrity, and ability or desire to extend love and trust to the foster child.
16-year-old Giulianna Ramos Bermudez, who resided in an Orlando, Florida foster care group home, made a choice to take her own life by strangulation. It was reported that on the last night of her life, she repeatedly refused to take the psychotropic drugs prescribed for her, and argued with the foster mother about how these drugs made her feel like a zombie.
Regardless of the many possible causes that may have served as the impetus for Giulianna’s final decision (being bullied by housemates or being separated from her family and her 2-year- old daughter), the fact remains that psychotropic drugs didn’t help her deal with these problems.