Wednesday, January 17, 2007

TeenScreen - The Last Straw

Doyle Mills just released an excellent article about TeenScreen. It is definitely worth the time to read it. Mental Health Screening in our public schools needs to be stopped. Mr. Mills outlines many reasons why.

Here are some excerpts:
TeenScreen is a highly controversial child suicide screening initiative with major ties to pharmaceutical companies. It is simply a marketing ploy to funnel massive numbers of our youth into the mental health system. An Internet search will pull up literally thousands of websites, articles and blogs critical of the program. Almost daily, newspapers publish articles and letters with the message that TeenScreen is a dangerous program, aimed at turning normal teenagers into new customers for the multi-billion dollar psycho-pharmaceutical industry.

With public opinion against it, TeenScreen is on the defense. They are attempting to promote carefully crafted messages - over and over again. These "talking points" are seen every time a TeenScreen staffer is interviewed, and repeated in letters from TeenScreen's director, Leslie McGuire and local TeenScreen worker bees. With Rabin Strategic Partners, a high-dollar New York PR firm, at their disposal, such a coordinated strategy is of course expected. Yet, these talking points do not actually answer the hard questions posed by the program‘s critics. Instead they utilize a simple technique known as the “straw man argument”.

A straw man argument is a way of trying to win a debate while completely avoiding the actual subject at hand. It is done by taking a statement from one’s opponent and altering it so that it becomes ridiculous and thus easy to defeat. This is commonplace in politics. A candidate says “We need to be careful with our spending” and the other side sets up a straw man argument by saying: “My opponent wants to cut benefits to people who really need it.” It’s a dishonest way of trying to win the battle for public opinion. It’s a sign of desperation and an admission that one cannot confront the actual issues.

TeenScreen uses a handful of predictable statements to defend themselves. Unfortunately for TeenScreen, for Rabin, and for the pharmaceutical companies, these arguments are easily shot down by anyone who is willing to do a little research and who understands the straw man argument.
Mr. Mills carefully outlines the "straws" and manages to refute every single one.

TeenScreen and other mental health screening programs are under attack, with good reason. Our children, and their children, are in danger and we cannot let public policy based on these flawed programs be decided by straw man arguments. We have to demand that TeenScreen, and other screening programs answer the tough questions and the real concerns. Then our lawmakers, school personnel, and most importantly PARENTS can make the right decisions regarding our kids.

It appears that schools are beginning to practice medicine without a license, by definition of state statutes, and that this is creating a huge liability for our school systems. Constitutional cases have pointed out time and time again that a child's health is not the responsibility of the school system, it is the responsibility of the parent.

Screening programs are prone to a high percentage of false positive identifications. As a result, kids are being funneled into the pipeline of therapy and being medicated unnecessarily which is ultimately destructive to their health and well being. In my opinion, this practice results in "risk of injury to a minor", and that schools should be charged accordingly if they continue to screen children, especially without full informed parental consent.

Video for you to watch: TeenScreen Controversy
and a Petition for you to sign if you are so inclined to voice your vote against TeenScreen. (There's over 16,500 "signatures" already).