Ban Mental Health Screening In Schools

Schools are starting up again across the country, and with the new school semester comes the selling of fall clothing, backpacks, writing utensils, notebooks, lunchpails, pharmaceutical products and psychiatric treatments. Psychiatry? Yeah, that’s right, psychiatry.

An article in The Wall Street Journal, Will Students Take a Mental Health Test?, concerns mental health screening in schools. According to this article, many students in schools throughout this nation are at risk for being tested for mental health issues.

As they return to classes this week, ninth-graders in Wisconsin’s Fond du Lac school district will be sent home with something for parents to sign besides the usual forms for sports activities and field trips: a consent for their children to undergo a mental-health screening.

I do not approve of schools screening for mental health issues. I would tell any parent facing such a fiasco just to say no to signing any such consent form. TeenScreen, one of the most frequent tests used in screening for mental health issues, has an 84 % false positive rate. What these tests manage to do is to raise the rate of “mental illness” labeling in any area where they are used.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of all cases of mental illness start by age 14, and about 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18. Left untreated, such issues can lead to high dropout rates, substance abuse, violence—and suicide, the third-leading cause of death in adolescents. In a study of 2,500 students who went through the Fond du Lac program at six public high schools between 2005 and 2009, published last week in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, nearly 20% were identified as at risk, of whom 73.6% were not receiving treatment at the time of screening. Among that group, more than three-quarters completed at least one visit with a mental-health provider within 90 days after referral to school and community services.

The 1st statistic given here is one of the biggest reasons a person could find for opposing the mental health screening of children and adolescents. The wording given is a little more vague than it should be. One half of all LIFETIME cases of “mental illness” have been diagnostically labeled by age 14. These are people that spend the bulk of their lifetimes on disability as a burden to society as a whole. The question that isn’t answered here is how many of these children would not have become chronic mental cases if they had not been singled out and labeled so early in their lives. Mental health screening can only increase the numbers of children labeled at such a young and impressionable age.

A lack of treatment is then blamed for “high dropout rates, substance abuse, violence, and suicide”, but the question I want to pose to you is how many of these children labeled at 14 years of age were left untreated? I don’t imagine any of them were left untreated. Labeling and treating children then is a way to increase the number of mental cases on disability for a lifetime. We don’t have any statistics showing that mental health screening reduces the rate of chronic “mental illness” labeling in the world one iota. We don’t have any statistics showing mental health screening, in other words, to be a preventive measure when it comes to so-called chronic and serious “mental illness”.

A student flunks a mental health test, or a student passes a “mental illness” test, depending on your perspective, and the rate of “mental illness” labeling in the nation soars. A “mental illness” witchhunt, whether done by tests or mandatory psychiatric inquisitions, is not going to lower the number of people on disability for mental health issues. We don’t know whether any of these young people identified by a test as having a mental health issue would not have gotten better naturally without treatment if not so targetted. We can safely assume that this is probably the case in many of these cases. One thing you can be sure of is that the number of people labeled “mentally ill” and receiving disability is not going to decrease given mental health screening.

Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas) recently reintroduced legislation that would prohibit federal funds from being used for any mandatory mental-health screening program without parental consent, including TeenScreen. (TeenScreen’s Ms. Flynn says that parental consent is always required.) Because there are errors and false positives on such tests—kids who aren’t really depressed but may answer questions in a way that makes them seem so—opponents also fear children will be wrongly identified as problematic and stigmatized, or that parents will be penalized if they don’t seek treatment.

Simply requiring a consent form is not going far enough. Nearly 10 % of the population of this nation now is taking SSRI anti-depressants. We certainly don’t need to put more children on these drugs. Mental health screening tests need to be banned. Mental health screening by businesses is a way of discriminating against employing people who have been in mental health treatment. Mental health screening by schools is a way of making scapegoats out of certain students who are judged to be different. Concerned parents and engaged citizens around the nation need to join together to insure that these tests are not used to harm and alienate students in their home communities.