I am writing in response to a May 28 article, “Saving Lives One Teen at a Time.” John Perona from Kitsap Mental Health shared his goal to screen Kitsap teenagers for mental health issues with the intention of providing “intervention.” According to the article, this goal would be accomplished by the implementation of a program called “TeenScreen,” a combined effort between the school districts, Kitsap Mental Health and the Kitsap County Health District.
In most cases, “intervention” means referral to psychiatric services and treatment with psychotropic drugs (the ones with the FDA Black Box warnings). A survey of child psychiatrists conducted by “The Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry” found that nine out of 10 patients were prescribed drugs.
The article states that the program is “active in more than 400 communities.” What it doesn’t say is that warnings against the mass mental screening of children are coming from every segment of society, including parents, medical professionals, investigative journalists, and human rights groups, in large part, because the financial influence of pharmaceutical companies in TeenScreen is so blatantly obvious.
Because of the controversial and potentially harmful nature of this program, I urge all parents to demand full disclosure and informed consent from the schools, Kitsap Mental Health and the Health District. There are federal and state laws requiring “informed consent,” meaning that before someone agrees to participate in any medical procedure or experiment; they must be informed of and must understand the medical facts and the risks involved. This would include:
• The purpose of screening (TeenScreen sells their service as suicide prevention but no study has even shown a reduction in suicide or proven even one prevented suicide).
• Who is performing the screening? It may be performed by employees or agents of a for-profit “mental health” treatment facility or volunteer counselors with little or no experience.
• That the screening has an 84 percent rate of false-positives (meaning that as many as 84 percent of students can be falsely identified as “mentally ill”).
• The screening questions (TeenScreen will not reveal the questions to parents).
• The potentially bad effect of presenting suicide as something to be considered.
• A full understanding of the basic foundation of psychiatry’s “diagnosis,” since there are no scientific tests that show whether a person has or does not have a mental disorder.
• The fact that Psychiatry’s “Diagnostic Statistical Manual,” which TeenScreen is based on, has over 300 behaviors that have just been voted on, according to whim; not tests or real facts.
• The fact that the child may be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder with no objective medical testing, a label which can remain with that child for the rest of his life.
• That some career paths may be closed to the child because of the diagnosis and/or psychiatric treatment.
• That the parents may lose their parental rights or even be criminally charged with neglect if they refuse to accept the diagnosis and give the child psychiatric treatment.
• A full understanding of the dangers and effects of the drugs that may be given to children for these “mental disorders” including deaths, violence and suicide.
While child and teen suicide has fallen by 25 percent in the last decade (according to the Center for Disease Control), it nonetheless is a tragedy. However, unscientific screening with the potential to label perfectly normal children with a “disorder” is not the answer.
However, the biggest threat that TeenScreen poses may not be the drugs at all. How does it affect a young person to be told by an “authority” that he or she has a permanent, incurable brain disorder? After a child takes the TeenScreen survey, a mental health counselor reviews his answers and speaks to the child. In this conversation, the “professional” can make disturbing statements to the child. He may tell the child, without any brain tests, that his brain is abnormal, that he has a permanent and potentially disabling disease, that he is “damaged goods.” The child will then be sent on his way with the new “knowledge” that he is not a normal, healthy teenager as he thought in the morning but rather that he has a “mental disorder” that can ruin his life.