There is a growing trend in the States with federal and private foundation funding to use the coerced and captured attention of students in state schools as guinea pigs for the latest fad in psychiatry. This fad would be the use of mental health screening instruments to supposedly determine if children are 'mentally ill'. It would be no surprise that following the increased use of these types of screening instruments there will be an increase in the use of potentially dangerous psychiatric medicine in children including the stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and anti-depressants such as Prozac. There are many reasons these screening instrument use in state schools should be opposed. A few include the following:
1. Children are being coercively screened and medicated, and some children have died as a result. Aliah Gleason, a 13 year old African American girl, was forced into a state mental hospital, denied contact with her family for 5 months, restrained more than 26 times, and treated with at least 12 different psychiatric medications (some simultaneously) – and all as a result of a school mental health screening. Matthew Smith and Shaina Dunkle died of psychiatric medication toxicity after their parents were coerced with threats of child abuse charges by schools if they did not medicate their children.
2. The poorest and most vulnerable, as well as minority children, will suffer the most. Over 60% of foster children in Texas, nearly two-thirds in Massachusetts, and 55% of foster children in Florida are receiving as many as 16 different psychiatric drugs, starting as young as age 3. The NAACP, in its legislative document supporting the Child Medication Safety Act, said, “In fact, a recent study in the state of New York showed that ‘minority boys’ are 11 times more likely to be on mind-altering medicines than is the general student body.”
3. Both the psychiatric diagnostic criteria and the screening instruments themselves are subjective. This has been admitted by such experts as the U.S. Surgeon General; the World Health Organization; the authors of psychiatry’s [primary reference] for diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; and the authors of other psychiatric textbooks.
4. Children are already being diagnosed and medicated at alarming rates and at very young ages. More money was spent on psychiatric drugs for children in 2003 than on antibiotics or asthma medication. There was a 300% increase the in the psychiatric drugging of two to four year old children between 1991 and 1995. Widespread screening will only increase this problem.
5. The medications which are prescribed to children are frequently ineffective and dangerous. These medications have potentially lethal, side effects. The FDA has only recently admitted that antidepressant drugs are no more effective than a sugar pill in treating pediatric depression with more than two thirds of studies (some concealed from physicians and the public for years) showing a clear link between these drugs and suicide and violence. Stimulant drugs prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been found by the Surgeon General and leading scholars to produce no long-term beneficial effects upon academic achievement or social skills. In addition, stimulant medications have been linked to psychosis, liver, and cognitive toxicity. Antipsychotic drugs have been linked to obesity and diabetes.
Detailed quotes and references substantiating all of these points in written Congressional testimony and Congressional staff briefing documents by ICSPP board member Dr. Karen Effrem are available at http://icspp.org/content/view/69/44/ and http://edaction.org/2005/021405.htm.
We as a society have to take a decision soon whether or not we are going to continue to allow our children to be guinea pigs to the latest fads and trends crafted by the elite in various fields such as psychiatry. It is bad enough that we have created an education system that denies individual autonomy, needs, interests, skills and passions of the very students it is charged with educating. We should definitely not be making the system even worse in its effects on children by screening them and in many if not most cases drugging them into complience with a sick system.
Michael D. Ostrolenk