- Big Brother is on the march. A plan to subject all children
to mental health screening is underway, and the pharmaceutical firms are
gearing up for bigger sales of psychotropic drugs.
- Like most liberal, big-spending ideas, this one was slipped
into the law under cover of soft semantics. Its genesis was the New Freedom
Commission on Mental Health (NFCMH), created by President George W. Bush
- The NFCMH recommends "routine and comprehensive"
testing and mental health screening for every child in America, including
preschoolers. Bush has instructed 25 federal agencies to develop a plan
to implement the commission's recommendations.
- The NFCMH proposes utilizing electronic medical records
for mental health interrogation of both children and adults, to search
for mental illnesses in school and during routine physical exams. The NFCMH
also recommends integrating electronic health records and personal health
- The NFCMH recommends "linkage" of these mental
examinations with "state-of-the-art treatments" using "specific
medications for specific conditions." That means prescribing more
expensive, patented antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs.
- Illinois Provides Model
- Illinois became the first state to jump on board. By
near-unanimous votes in 2003, both houses of the state legislature passed
the $10 million Illinois Children's Mental Health Act creating a Children's
Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP), which is expected to become a model
for other states.
- The ICMHP's plan, released on July 16, calls for periodic
social and emotional development examinations to be administered to all
children, and for all women to be interrogated for depression during pregnancy
and up to a year postpartum. When the ICMHP showcased this plan with five
public hearings stacked with bureaucrats and social service workers, a
political tempest erupted, with state legislators saying they had no idea
this was what they had voted for.
- Illinois legislators were shocked to hear the details.
The plan includes periodic developmental exams for children ages 0-18 years,
a statewide data-reporting system to track information on each person,
social-emotional development screens with all mandated school exams (K,
4th, and 9th), and report cards on children's social-emotional development.
- The plan is to add mental health assessment to the state's
physical examination certificate, along with mandatory immunization records.
All children in Illinois, unless religiously exempt, are required to have
up-to-date health examinations and immunizations for school enrollment.
- The ICMHP requires the Illinois State Board of Education
to develop and implement a plan that incorporates social and emotional
standards as part of the mandated Illinois Learning Standards, which were
due on the governor's desk by December 31, 2004. This inevitably opens
up screening for politically incorrect attitudes and nonconformity with
liberal attitudes of tolerance.
- Drugs Not Proven Effective
- Mental health diagnoses are inherently subjective and
social constructions, as even the diagnostic manuals admit. Many thousands
if not millions of children would receive stigmatizing diagnoses that would
follow them for the rest of their lives.
- "State-of-the-art treatments" will result in
many thousands of children being medicated by expensive, ineffective, and
dangerous drugs. The long-term safety and effectiveness of psychiatric
medications given to children have never been proven, but the side effects
are known and severe. They include suicide, violence, psychosis, cardiac
toxicity, and growth suppression. Several school shooters, such as Eric
Harris (Columbine) and Kip Kinkel (Oregon), were on antidepressants or
stimulants when they committed their crimes.
- The validity of much scientific research has lost its
credibility because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed the
pharmaceutical industry to withhold data not favorable to their products
and because persons in the pay of the pharmaceutical firms are the ones
recommending the medications.
- The current controversy about links between suicide and
antidepressant drugs that have not been adequately tested has contributed
to the uproar. The FDA posted an analysis in August stating some antidepressants
pose a risk of suicide in children. (See http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/answers/2004/ans01306.html.)
- Parents Bypassed, Children Stigmatized
- Parental rights are unclear or nonexistent under these
mental health screening programs. What are the rights of youth and parents
to refuse or opt out of such screening? Will they face coercion and threats
of removal from school, or child neglect charges, if they refuse privacy-invading
interrogations or unproved medications? How will a child remove a stigmatizing
label from his records?
- A Columbia University pilot project for screening students,
called TeenScreen, resulted in one-third of the subjects being flagged
as "positive" for mental health problems. Half of those were
turned over for mental health treatment. If that is a preview of what would
happen when 52 million public school students are screened, it would mean
hanging a libelous label on 17 million American children and forcibly putting
8 million children into the hands of the psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry.
- Phyllis Schlafly (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a columnist,
commentator, author, and founder of the Eagle Forum. This article originally
appeared on Eagleforum.org and is reprinted with permission.