Mental Health Screening of School Children

The Aug. 30, 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal, “Will Students Take A Mental Health Test”, covers the seemingly benevolent issue of whether Florida and other state schools should engage in mental health screening.  Schools urging teens and children as young as nine years old to answer these questionnaires is controversial.  Though early detection of signs of distress seems like a good thing, a closer look reveals that TeenScreen centers are funded by private interest groups such as Eli Lilly and others in the pharmaceutical industry – companies which will greatly profit from finding more patients to put on psychiatric medications by performing mental health screening.

The steam fueling parental agreement regarding mental health screening (TeenScreen Program) is likely their worry about possible suicide or campus and school violence – both of which seem to be on the rise. But by TeenScreen’s own recent research surveys, 80 percent of child or teen suicides were by children already under treatment and taking psychiatric drugs.The side effects of these powerful drugs, especially in a child’s body, are warned to include suicide and violence. Programs such as TeenScreen which lead to more drugging may be dangerous, rather than having the benefit they claim. Statistically, only one in 10,000 children commit suicide. This is not an epidemic, like the TeenScreen program enthusiasts make it sound.

Reputable investigators and professionals such as Dr. Marcia Angell of Harvard University’s School of Medicine state that TeenScreen is another clever marketing campaign by drug companies feeding on parental fear and guilt, making them believe their child may die if they don’t hand them over to psychiatrists. The opposite may be more likely to occur. Statistics of violence and suicides in the young have risen in direct ratio, and in the same communities, to the amount of psychiatric drugs prescribed.

TeenScreen questionnaires contain kangaroo-court type questions — you’re guilty before you begin. Participation in mental health screening is urged on school children by offering free pizzas and other rewards if the form is completed. It utilizes a passive consent form: if parents do not object, the child (who may have forgotten to show it to their parents) is consented to, automatically, and the child is “screened”.  Questions include: if your parents get upset with you often, if you ever get nervous when you have to speak in front of people, or whether you ever worry that others are smarter or better looking than you — questions which, if answered “yes” honestly, as nearly any normal person would, automatically place the student into a risk category. This then leads to counseling, labeling of disorders, and to visits with psychiatrists who prescribe drugs which themselves are warned, lead to suicide!

Since instituting Teen Screen in 1999, anti-depressant sales have skyrocketed. The concern that TeenScreen centers are being funded by pharmaceutical companies is fueled by the fact that some centers, including the Columbia University center, mentioned in Wall Street Journal’s article, has refused to divulge who is funding them; but admit that it includes corporations. Others admit the pharmaceutical company funding connection.

This calls for an unbiased investigation into TeenScreen centers and their true purpose. Any parent discovering their child or teen is being solicited to participate in mental health screening should be wary of the inevitable risk of trapping their child into being prescribed psychiatric drugs with dangerous side effects.

This all may be prevented. Know your rights. See our School & Children’s articles.

You may also be interested in reading What is the Goal of TeeenScreen?

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