Mental Health Screening

Say No to Mental Health Screening

Julian Whitaker, M.D.

In the last four weeks: Have you had trouble sleeping, that is, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early?  Have you had less energy than you usually do? Has doing even little things made you feel really tired?  Has it often been hard for you to make up your mind or to make decisions?  Have you often had trouble keeping your mind on your schoolwork/work or other things? Have you often felt grouchy or irritable and often in a bad mood, when even little things would make you mad?  Have you gained a lot of weight, more than just a few pounds?  Have you lost weight, more than just a few pounds?

These are a few of the questions being asked to adolescents in a mental health screening program used in schools across the nation.  If a child answers ‘yes’ to these or a set number of other equally inane questions, they’re considered likely to be depressed-or worse.

Loaded Questions

Since when are issues with sleeping, energy, and feeling tired indicative of a mental illness?  What kid-or adult for that matter-hasn’t at one time or another in the last four weeks felt indecisive, unfocused, grouchy, or irritable?  And the questions about weight are just plain nuts.  Adolescents are expected to have growth spurts!

The screening also includes more ominous questions: Have you thought seriously about killing yourself?  Have you tried to kill yourself in the last four weeks?  Have you EVER in your WHOLE LIFE tried to kill yourself or made a suicide attempt?

One thing for certain, if they’d never given thought about suicide, they will now.

Bogus Screening Tests

The push for nationwide mental health screening for schoolchildren began in 2002 during the Bush administration and has been gaining ground ever since.  At the forefront of the movement today is Columbia University’s TeenScreen, which aims to “Expand early detection of mental illness by mainstreaming evidenced-based mental health checkups as a routine procedure in adolescent health care, schools, and other youth-serving settings.”

Evidence based?  There is nothing scientific about it.  According to a study by Dr. David Shaffer, the Columbia psychiatrist who started TeenScreen, the screening tool “…would deliver many who were not at risk for suicide, and that could reduce the acceptability of a school-based prevention program.  [It] would result in 84 non-suicidal teens being referred for further evaluation for every 16 youths correctly identified.”

This means more than four out of five children will walk away falsely labeled as suicidal or mentally ill.  And other screening tests have even higher false-positive rates, up to 94 percent.  Obviously, any instrument this insensitive is worthless-unless you happen to be a drug company waiting in the wings for new customers to start on psychotropic drugs.

Drug Company Collusion

Although TeenScreen insists that this program is financed only by private foundations, individuals, and organizations-and not pharmaceutical companies-there’s been a push by state and federal governments and drug companies to institute mental health screening dating back more than a decade.

Even if there are currently no direct financial ties, Marcia Angell, M.D., Harvard Medical School professor of ethics, believes that programs like TeenScreen are “just a way to put more people on prescription drugs” and increase sales of antidepressants.

This is the worst of all possible worlds.  First, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and related SSRI antidepressants work no better than placebo.  But even more sinister, rather than decreasing risk of suicide, they actually increase it.  These drugs are required by the FDA to carry a black-box warning label stating this fact. Psychotropic drugs also raise risk of violent behavior.  A large number of the school shootings and other violent crimes that have swept the country in recent years were related to the use of psychiatric drugs.

A Bogus Medical Specialty

This is just another example of what’s wrong with psychiatry.  Psychiatric “diagnoses” are simply clusters of human behavior that shrinks label as disease. Here are some of the “mental disorders” that your child may suffer from, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV): mathematics disorder, reading disorder, disorder of written expression, general anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, nightmare disorder.

These labels are simply illustrations of the wide range of normal feelings, emotions, and aptitudes.  But, according to psychiatrists, each and every one of them is a disease with one “solution”: a powerful, dangerous, psychiatric drug.

How to Protect Your Children…

You should under no circumstances allow your children to participate in school-based mental health screenings.  Do not be mislead by doublespeak from school boards, psychiatrists, counselors, or teachers.  Despite their veneer of identifying and helping those at risk, mental health screenings are little more than fishing expeditions, casting a broad net and reeling in millions of new psychiatric drug users.

Write a note to your child’s teacher clearly stating that you refuse permission for the child to participate in any type of mental health screening.  Include in the note the admonition that if the child undergoes screening without your knowledge, you will sue.

That’s exactly what the parents of Chelsea Rhoades, a high school student from Indiana, did.  Fifteen-year-old Chelsea was pulled out of class, told to sign a form, and given the TeenScreen assessment.  Next thing she knew, she was told she had obsessive compulsive disorder for cleaning and social anxiety disorder, and she was recommended for further treatment.  The lawsuit claimed that the school had violated the parents’ rights by failing to obtain their consent and for diagnosing their daughter without “due care.”  The parents won.

…And Other Children

Another thing you can do is to urge your congressmen to support H.R. 2218, the Parental Consent Act of 2009.  Introduced in April in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Ron Paul [R-TX], H.R. 2188 would forbid federal funds from being used for any mental health-screening programs without the express, written consent of their parents or legal guardians.  This bill has been referred to the House Education and Labor Committee, so it is likely not on your congressman’s radar at the moment, but it’s still worth bringing to his attention.

Julian Whitaker, MD, is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Emory University Medical School in Atlanta, GA. In 1979, he founded the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, CA, which is now the largest alternative medicine clinic in the U.S. Dr. Whitaker is the author of the monthly newsletter Health & Healing, which has reached more than 3 million households since 1991. He has also written 13 books and is host of the popular health talk radio program, The Dr. Whitaker Show. An outspoken proponent of complementary medicine, Dr. Whitaker is also founder of the nonprofit Whitaker Health Freedom Foundation.