Fort Madison Daily Democrat
Statistics don't indicate a significant danger
I am writing in response to the letter “Here are the facts about the TeenScreen Program.” This letter makes it sound like suicide is a pervasive threat for Iowa children...one of such grave dimensions that it requires wholesale screening through the schools to catch the many desperate children whose difficulties would otherwise go unnoticed. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, however, would indicate otherwise: In 2004, 19 Iowa children between the ages of 0 - 18 committed suicide out of a total of 724, 095. That is a percentage of .00262%, or 2.62 per 100,000 people. That is hardly an epidemic.
For the rare child who really is in trouble, though, it seems reasonable to ask whether TeenScreen and the recommendations that follow it will actually do him any good. First of all, is it not unlikely that his unhappiness will have been noticed already by somebody - parents, teachers, minister, coaches, or friends? Are we so unobservant that only an official suicide questionnaire will uncover a child on the edge? I doubt it.
Secondly, even if this were likely, does it really justify asking leading, suggestive questions to thousands upon thousands of other children, subjecting them to the possibility of misdiagnosing, mislabeling, and potentially damaging treatments? I don't think so.
And last, supposing that we screen everybody and really do catch a child who appears to be in trouble - then what? In the wake of this assessment - whatever else is recommended - the follow-up is very likely to include a referral, a diagnosis, and a prescription. Once in the hands of a psychiatric professional, diagnosis will be made on the basis of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which has been thoroughly discredited. Then, prescription, and no help there. Black box warnings have been added to various psychiatric drugs on the basis that they can actually increase the likelihood of suicide.
So what do we do? We get this TeenScreen program out of the schools, and help children without hurting them. Caring parents and teachers and ministers and friends can do far more to bring children up to an enthusiasm for life than all the assessments and diagnoses and prescriptions in Christendom.
Elizabeth Neal Cameron
There are “facts” and then there is the truth
Your recently published a letter from two social workers - Ms. Gutman and Ms. Jarvis - on the subject of TeenScreen. Curiously, it was entitled the "facts" about the TeenScreen program.
I think the social workers should crack open a dictionary and look up what a "fact" is. Obviously with no investigation of their own, they accept and spew the "facts" given to them by TeenScreen. One of the definitions for facts is "something said to be true or supposed to have happened," as in this example: "The facts given by the witness are highly questionable." Yet the public doesn't want or need that kind of "facts" to be presented as truth. They need real facts, as in this definition: "something that actually exists; reality; truth."
Ms. Gutman's and Ms. Jarvis' letter is full of assertions, none of which can be proven by evidence. TeenScreen spawned a lawsuit in Indiana because a teen was screened and labeled with a mental disorder without her parents' knowledge.
TeenScreen refuses to release the identity of their mysterious donors. Many members of TeenScreen's executive board have connections to drug companies. TeenScreen's biggest supporter and co-conspirator is NAMI, which receives millions from drug companies, a verifiable fact because NAMI is a non-profit organization required to reveal its contributors.
TeenScreen is intimately involved in treatment, as evidenced by the fact that TeenScreen always partners with a local mental health provider so that identified youth can be directed into treatment. That information can be found on TeenScreen's own website.
Suicide IS a horrible tragedy. No one is denying that. Yet, suicide is very, very, very rare. If you want to see how rare, click on http://www.psychsearch.net/rare/iowa.html You'll see that the suicide rate for youth in Iowa as reported by the CDC is 2.62 per 100,000. That's a very small number. Screening identifies 30% or higher youth as needing further evaluation. Screening is obviously good for finding new customers for the mental health system but it's complete folly to pretend that its purpose is finding those at risk and preventing suicide.
Add to that the FACT that the FDA requires a black box warning on antidepressants, the same ones that will be given to some of these kids entering the mental health system via TeenScreen. This warning states that the drugs can CAUSE suicidal tendencies and violence in young people. Ms. Gutman and Ms. Jarvis neglected to mention that fact.
Everything I have stated here is verifiable, backed up by evidence. Though this may be an editorial, I am not stating an opinion. I am stating documented, provable fact.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfU9puZQKBY Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/TScreen/petition.html