Chelsea is one of countless children who get labeled with fraudulent diagnoses every day. The difference in her case is that her parents, who were unaware that TeenScreen had infiltrated their daughters school and had not given permission for the screening, reacted quickly. They filed a lawsuit against the officials of the high school who allowed the test to be administered and the TeenScreen program. In doing so, the Rhoades took a stand for all parents across the nation.
The unscientific nature of psychiatric labeling was admitted to by the American Psychiatric Associations own president, Steven Sharfstein, when he stated on June 27, 2005, during an interview on the Today Show, We do not have a clean cut lab test [for diagnosing mental illness or chemical imbalance of the brain.]
His admission was quickly followed by another similar statement from psychiatrist Mark Graff, Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association Committee of Public Affairs, Chemical imbalance: its a shorthand term really, its probably drug industry derived. We dont have tests because to do it, youd probably have to take a chunk of brain out of someone - not a good idea. Graff did more than admit to there being no science behind the chemical imbalance theory. He also pointed out the incestuous relationship between the drug industries and psychiatry.
TeenScreen has been cleverly sold to numerous schools across the country as a suicide prevention program with no scientific evidence backing up the claim. The 1996 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.
The individuals pushing TeenScreen make every effort to hide evidence that mental health screening is of no use in combating teen suicide. In order to gain wide acceptance in our nations schools they paint youth suicide as an epidemic and their program as the cure-all.
TeenScreens executives are well aware of the actual situation. Rob Caruano, former TeenScreen director, was quoted in the South Bend Tribun e on December 22, 2004, Teen Suicides, while tragic, are so rare that [any] study would have to be impossibly huge to show a meaningful difference in mortality between screened and unscreened students. Youd have to be screening almost the whole country to reach statistical significance.
TeenScreen is far from being the solution. In fact, some experts agree that widespread screening will increase the number of teen suicides. Jane Pearson, PhD. who chairs the National Institute of Mental Health Suicide Research Consortium said, [ ] a prevention program designed for high-school aged youth found that participants were more likely to consider suicide a solution to a problem after the program than prior to the program... She also stated, [ ] suicide is a very rare occurrence compared to other causes of deaths. [ ] when researchers have tried to predict suicide using as many known risk factors as possible, they are still unable to predict who will and who will not commit this act.
The TeenScreen test is a 14-item, self-completion questionnaire. It usually takes 10 minutes to complete and is used to screen youths from ages 11 to 18 who read at a 6th grade level. It asks questions such as have you often felt very nervous when youve had to do things in front of people?, or, Are you the kind of person who is often very tense, and finds it very hard to relax?, or, Has there been a time when nothing was fun for you and you just werent interested in anything?
One would be hard pressed to find a teenager who wouldnt at one time or another answer yes to those sorts of questions. TeenScreen refuses to release copies of the questionnaire, even to parents and elected officials who have requested to see the test.
TeenScreen, in an effort to make the program appear innocuous, claims that it does not recommend or endorse any particular kind of treatment for the youth who are identified by the screening. But, in one of many conflicting statements Laurie Flynn, TeenScreens director, reveals that the long-term goal of TeenScreen is not just identification, but treatment for those in need, and that parents of youths found to be at possible risk are notified and helped in identifying and connecting to local mental health services.
Particularly distressing is the data released by a recent survey, printed in JAM Academy Adolescent Psychiatry 2002, showing that nine out of ten children who see a psychiatrist are given psychiatric drugs.
A recent survey showed that between 1995 and 1999, the use of antidepressants increased 151% for 7 to 12 year olds and 580% for children under six. Between 1998 and 2003, there was another 49% increase in children taking antidepressants. Sales of the drugs have now reached more than $13 billion a year.
To make matters worse, on September 15, 2004, the FDA stated that a causal role for antidepressants in inducing suicidality had been established in pediatric patients, and that children given psychiatric drugs were twice as likely to commit suicide as those given a placebo. As a result of this finding, the FDA ordered drug manufacturers to place a Black-Box warning on all antidepressant labels. The Black-Box warning is the most serious measure that the FDA can take regarding a prescription medication, short of an outright ban. That initial Black-Box warning label requirement has since been followed by 15 more official warnings on psychiatric drugs.
Eileen Dannemann of the National Coalition of Organized Women describes the TeenScreen approach as a telling omission. Weve got eight million American kids on psychiatric drugs, she said. While TeenScreen asks the kids if they are using street drugs, they omit to find out about the use of psych drugs. Antidepressants play a major role in youth suicide. If [TeenScreen] really wanted to help they would worry about that. The fact that they dont shows their real intention.
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