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Thursday's papers: Rising anti-psychotic drug use by kids, uproar over child sex abuse verdict, rebranding Finland's famous baby box

Thursday's paper review looks at an increase in prescriptions of anti-psychotics for children and teens, examines the courts' decision not to return a rape verdict in the sexual assault of a 10-year-old and considers plans to rename the best-known Finnish ambassador, the baby box or maternity kit.

Vastasyntynyt
Kela opened up a Pandora's box by inviting suggestions for renaming its famous baby box. Image: Viivi Sihvonen / Yle

Largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat’s city pages lead with a look at the growing use of antidepressant and anti-psychotic medication among young teens in Finland. The paper writes that these powerful drugs are being used to treat neuropsychological behavioural disorders such as depression and anxiety and that the number of children and teens being referred to psychiatric and specialty care is also on the rise.

HS profiles the case of a 10-year-old girl who was exposed to a traumatic incident during an overseas trip when the family’s residence was burgled while she slept. According to the child’s mother, the trauma left the child in a state of fear and induced difficulty sleeping. The girl, now 13, was then subjected to bullying at school when she became withdrawn.

The mother described how her daughter was immediately prescribed with anti-psychotic medication, quetiapine and risperidone, because of a 12-month waiting list to see a psychotherapist. According to the mother, denying the medication would have resulted in care officials notifying child welfare authorities.

Leena Repokaari, head of paediatric psychiatry at the Helsinki University Hospital Hyks, said that what happened is not normal procedure. "Patients are treated on the basis of an understanding with them and their parents and denying medication alone cannot be grounds for a child welfare complaint."

According to HS, over the past 10 years, the use of medication used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has surged in the Helsinki region as well as the entire country. Patients usually begin treatment between the ages of 7 and 10 and more boys than girls are prescribed the drugs.

Medical professionals are also prescribing anti-psychotic and antidepressant medication to children and young adults more often. As children, more boys than girls receive anti-psychotic prescriptions, but usage of the drug increases significantly among both groups after the age of 13. Anti-psychotics are usually not recommended for these groups and many medications warn against their use in under 18-year-olds.

Courts deemed 10-year-old was "not powerless"

Meanwhile tabloid daily Iltalehti looks at another issue affecting children. The paper’s online edition picks up the case of a 23-year-old asylum seeker man who was freed of rape charges for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl. A Pirkanmaa court did slap the accused with a three-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of the child which took place back in 2016, and an appeal court upheld the sentence.

The case generated outrage when the lower court ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the child resisted the man’s advances. Meanwhile the appeal court also found that the victim was not powerless in the situation, and defined powerless as resulting from illness, a disability or a narcotic substance.

IL writes that Criminal and Procedural Law Professor Matti Tolvanen challenged the courts' rulings, saying that the law does not consider the victim’s age and stage of development in evaluating powerlessness.

Tolvanen noted that current laws define 16 as the age below which the rape of an under-18-year old is considered an aggravated offence, but does not consider the child’s age and level of development in determining how far the victim is capable of resisting sexual violence. He also referenced research showing that children aged 6 – 8 do not yet understand the nature of a sexual act.

According to IL, as far as current legislation is concerned, a rape verdict requires violence or the threat of violence and this also applies to offences involving children. The paper notes that cases of sexual violence targeting children rarely result in a rape conviction, but mostly meet the criteria for sexual abuse or aggravated sexual abuse.

Family pack or accident kit?

Families are also in focus in the online edition of another tabloid, Ilta-Sanomat on Thursday. The paper runs a report on a spirited online discussion on the merits – and demerits – of a proposal by the national benefits agency Kela to change the name of Finland’s celebrated baby box.

On Tuesday, the organisation invited suggestions from members of the public for the new moniker. In soliciting proposals, it posed the question, "Does the name of the maternity kit discriminate against dads?", although it stressed that it was not necessarily aiming for gender-neutrality, rather a more inclusive title.

IS provided a summary of reader submissions and opinions on the issue, with the majority of comments dismissing the campaign as a waste of time and calling on the organisation to focus on more important matters.

Others thought that perhaps it was time for a change, with many proposing "baby kit" or "family pack" as likely candidates. Inevitably some readers had a lighter take on the ideas put forward.

"If we want equality, in addition to dad kit, we should add 'accident kit' for those [babies] that arrive by accident," quipped one witty reader.

"How about the 'consequences of sex kit'," came another rejoinder.

"Let’s put 'mustard machine kit' so Kela won’t have to continue with this," came one scatological comment.

One deep thinker however, was of the view that the name "family pack" wouldn’t necessarily be an appropriate label.

"What do you mean 'family kit': Not all [expectant] mothers even have a family before the baby is born."

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