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TeenScreen Mental Illness Screening In Schools - How Could This Happen?

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Message Evelyn Pringle
The TeenScreen survey is being used to screen students for mental illness in the nation's public school system reportedly to prevent suicide. However, critics adamantly disagree with its stated purpose and say its a marketing scheme invented by the pharmaceutical industry to recruit prescription drug customers.

The goal is to promote the patently false idea that we have a nation of children with undiagnosed mental disorders crying out for treatment, according to Republican Texas Congressman and physician, Ron Paul, in "Forcing Kids Into a Mental Health Ghetto."

Implementing such a blatant marketing scheme in schools would be impossible without a lot of help from key politicians and policy makers. But when it comes to gaining influence over government officials, Big Pharma knows when and where to be generous. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in his 2 bids for the presidency, George W Bush, has been the number one recipient of campaign donations from the industry.

In addition, the consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, has determined that since 1997, the top 25 drug companies gave Republicans 80% of their $48.6 million in campaign contributions.

An analysis of confidential 2002 budget documents from the industry's giant trade group, Pharma, obtained by the New York Times, shows the trade group spent close $60 million on advocacy and related activities at the federal level, which turned out to be $45 million more than Pharma disclosed in federal filings, the Times said.

In 2001-2002, the analysis showed that Pharma lavished $3.4 million on Republicans, and gave only $161,300 to Democrats.

In return for the millions owed, lawmakers have been doling out tax dollars left and right to fund screening programs like TeenScreen. On September 21, 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced grants of over $9.7 million in funding for the implementation of the TeenScreen Program.

"The Columbia University TeenScreen Program," SAMHSA's press release said, "provides early identification of mental health problems, such as depression, that can lead to suicide."

TeenScreen claims its voice computer version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC ), can show signs of 30 disorders, according to an article by Reuters on October 13, 2003.

To get the Teenscreen up and running in schools nationwide, Big Pharma has funneled millions of dollars to front groups like the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), who in turn dispatch members of their groups to help promote and implement TeenScreen in their communities.

And its no secret that NAMI gets its funding drug makers, the group's corporate sponsors are listed as: Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline Janssen Pharmaceutica, Magellan Health Services, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Organon, PacifiCare Behavioral Health, Pfizer Foundation, Pfizer, PhRMA, WellPoint Health Networks, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

According to the well-known author and certified expert on psychiatric drugs, psychiatrist Dr Peter Breggin, these front groups use national conventions to bring together advocates who promote drug treatment. "They also put out newsletters," he notes, "and other information that praise medications."

And just as Dr Breggin predicted, on January 19, 2005, NAMI put out a newsletter on TeenScreen and treatment for mental illnesses, with a headline that said: "Mental Health Screening Will Save Lives."

"Research shows," it read, "that early identification and intervention leads to improved outcomes and may lessen long-term disability."

"Sometimes," Dr Breggin says, "they actively suppress viewpoints that are critical of drugs, for example, by discouraging the media from airing opposing viewpoints."

As for this tactic, at one NAMI national convention, TeenScreen official, Leslie McGuire, recruited members to "suppress viewpoints" by passing around a list to get signatures from people who would respond if there was a community uprising against TeenScreen, by writing letters to the editor in local newspapers and attending school board meetings.

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.
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