EDINBURGH Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson has revealed in the Scottish Parliament that he was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as an adult.
Asking a question about reports of a large increase in under-10s being prescribed stimulants, he told fellow MSPs: “I received my diagnosis of ADHD later in life, at the age of 35.
“My diagnosis and subsequent therapy have transformed my life. However, the most important element of that therapy is the medication that I take on a daily basis.
“My only regret is that I did not receive that diagnosis and, indeed, that therapy earlier in life.”
Mr Johnson, who was managing director of Paper Tiger and Studio One before being elected to Holyrood last year, went on to criticise “sensationalist” media reporting of “Scotland’s supposed overreliance on drugs” and “unhelpful” Conservative comments.
He said: “The Royal College of Psychiatrists is clear that, if anything, we are probably underdiagnosing children with ADHD.
“We should be seeking to promote understanding of the condition and not stigmatising children who take medication for ADHD or other mental health and neurological conditions.”
ADHD is a conditions whose symptoms include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. It is typically diagnosed at an early age. But comedian Rory Bremner revealed earlier this year he was also recently diagnosed with ADHD.
Maureen Watt, the Scottish Government minister for mental health, thanked Mr Johnson for sharing his experience with the parliament.
She said: “The Scottish Government has worked with a number of organisations to help reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems. As that stigma has reduced, it is welcome that more people and families have come forward for help with mental health problems. We believe that is a positive sign that people feel more able to come forward to get help.”
But she said Mr Johnson was right. “More children and young people have ADHD than are coming forward.”
Ms Watt said the rise in the number of prescriptions for ADHD reflected a general increase in demand for child and adolescent mental health services. The majority of young people with ADHD were not receiving medication as part of their treatment but were instead receiving alternative support.
“I thank the member for showing that medication has an important part to play, but I re-emphasise that it is prescribed in consultation with the person’s general practitioner, and hopefully it can be reduced if that is the right thing to do.”
Mr Johnson said the Scottish ADHD Coalition had highlighted a need for better training of teachers and access to child and adolescent mental health services. “Although there are counsellors in schools across the rest of the UK, in Scotland’s schools there is no guarantee of such provision.”