A powerful response to a stigmatising article was published in the Letter To The Editor section of The West Australian on 11 February 2023.

The response was written by Chair of the ADHD WA Board of Management, Dr Michele Toner, after The West published an article written by Max Pemberton titled: “Could ‘diagnosis creep’ be responsible for adult ADHD boom?”

Many of our members, staff and board were outraged by the original article, as it contained a lot of stigmatising language about ADHD, perpetuated harmful myths about overdiagnosis, and contained misleading information about the nature of ADHD and its neurobiological status.

You can read Dr Toner’s full response below. We will always aim to dispel any mistruths about ADHD and remain strong advocates for the WA ADHD Community, and quality, research and evidence-based information and support. 

FULL RESPONSE: Letter to The Editor

Letter title: Current ADHD thinking

Max Pemberton’s article on the increasing diagnosis of ADHD in adults (Opinion, 7/2) is dangerously short on any factual information.

The UK based psychiatrist trivialises a serious and complex condition that costs individuals, families and Australian society dearly.

Fact: According to a Deloitte report for the Australian ADHD Professionals Association, it costs $20.42 billion per year of financial, wellbeing and productivity losses.

The article falsely claims that ADHD is “being wildly over-diagnosed”.

Fact: ADHD remains underdiagnosed in Australian adults. The 2022 NHMRC Guideline for ADHD estimates the prevalence of ADHD in adults to be 2 percent. WA Health Department figures show that fewer that one percent of adults are taking medication for ADHD.

Pemberton resorts to parent blame, claiming that “it’s easier to whack a label on a child and medicalise their behaviour rather than accept there may be a problem with parenting.”

Fact: ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a large genetic component and is not caused by poor parenting.

The article talks of a “diagnosis creep” and cites widening diagnosis criteria as the cause.

Fact: The 18 items in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, used to diagnose ADHD in Australia, have existed for the past 30 years.

Finally, the opinion piece quotes two former presidents of the royal colleges of GPs and psychiatrists in the UK, making their opinions largely irrelevant.

The media would be better placed to seek comment from current representatives of those colleges in Western Australia.

We look forward to an opinion piece written by in informed clinician, rather than one who has failed to recognise and diagnose ADHD in those unfortunate people attending his clinic over the past 20 years.

Dr Michele Toner

You can view the original article here: https://thewest.com.au/opinion/max-pemberton-could-diagnosis-creep-be-responsible-for-adult-adhd-boom-c-9668898