Apr 13, 2018
ELW

The National Pulse: Parents Beware: Mental Screening of Students Ramps Up in Texas

Share this...
Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter

After Florida’s misguided school safety law passed, be on the lookout for similar harmful mental screening programs. Dr. Effrem discusses two programs in Texas:

There are so many problems with the foundation of these programs, it is difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with the admitted subjectivity of mental illness diagnostic criteria. As the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) diagnostic handbook was about to be published, Dr. Dilip Jeste, APA’s president at the time, admitted:

At present, most psychiatric disorders lack validated diagnostic biomarkers, and although considerable advances are being made in the arena of neurobiology, psychiatric diagnoses are still mostly based on clinician assessment.

There are many similar quotes, but this one from the World Health Organization (WHO) is very important, because it deals with the even more complicated developmental issues that prevent accurate psychiatric diagnosis, especially in children and teens:

Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.

If the WHO, which is hardly a conservative, pro-family organization, admits that pediatric diagnosis can be confused due to normal developmental changes, this UT Southwestern program — featuring group psychotherapy sessions in schools that have the potential to amplify normal adolescent angst and blues into full-blown mental illness — hardly seems like a great idea.

The accuracy of mental screening instruments is also important to discuss given that both programs are doing mental screening in the schools. The Columbia Suicide Screen has a false positive rate of 84 percent. Others recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics have false positive rates of 71 percent and 59 percent. [Those percentages are obtained by subtracting the low positive predictive values, which mean that a person actually has the condition being tested or screened, from 100 percent.]

In addition, the use of Texas students by UT Southwestern as guinea pigs for “developing blood and brain tests for diagnosis to identifying effective treatments and interventions” raises many troubling issues. The studies want to analyze “socio-demographic, lifestyle, clinical, psychological, and neurobiological factors.”

This raises issues of patient and family consent, data privacy, and freedom of conscience. This is especially true when there is already a troubling overlap between academic data that lives forever in state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) and medical, social emotional, and psychological data collected at schools that does not seem to be protected by medical confidentiality law (HIPAA). These changes have come about due to the gutting of FERPA, the federal educational privacy law, during the Obama administration and changes in ESSA, the replacement for No Child Left Behind.

There is definitely a need for more effective treatments for adolescent depression. The current record for children and adolescents is awful. According to the government-funded STAR*D study in which the doctor in the UT Southwestern article is involved, the standard medications used to treat depression, SSRI antidepressants, are only effective for about one third of patients. These drugs are associated with suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide in children and teens. In fact, these medications are under the FDA’s black box warning, the agency’s most serious warning short of a ban. The SSRI drugs are also associated with violent reactions, including murderous rampages like school and other mass shootings.

If combined with other classes of medication like antipsychotics, the effectiveness only increases to about half of patients. However, these other drugs have very serious additional side effects, including permanent abnormal movements, brain damage, obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks.

All of these dangerous efforts are ramping up after school shootings like those in Newtown and Parkland. As previously discussed, the focus on mental screening, especially by poorly trained teachers and school officials, which can lead to inaccurate diagnoses and dangerous, ineffective medications, should be strongly opposed. Students in Texas schools, or those in any other state, should not be used as lab rats for government or pharmaceutical industry researchers.

Root causes like family breakdown and the use of academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative standards in schools (i.e. Common Core) need review and solutions. Using mental screening and medication for these issues is like trying to put a bandage on broken leg.

Read the full article HERE.

Print Friendly

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.