A California community college professor recently made headlines when a student alleged that the professor encouraged him to seek counseling due to a patriotic term paper. Legislators and health advocates fear a new presidential initiative may make similar scenarios commonplace in public schools across the country.
House members have introduced a bill to prevent what they see as a Big Brother-like intrusion into individual liberty. The Parental Consent Act (H.R. 181) targets the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, which “recommends the “forced mental health screening for every child in America, including preschool children,” according to Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) who introduced the bill.
Congress has authorized $20 million to fund initiatives of the commission, which includes provisions on the use of schools to screen children for mental health problems. The Parental Consent Act would prevent federal funding for the program, unless parents expressly authorize their child’s screening.
“The American tradition of parents deciding what’s best for their children is under attack,” said Kent Snyder of the Liberty Committee.
Many doctors and health officials also oppose the presidential initiative. “Our government should never be in the position of imposing health services on people . . . without their consent or against their will,” said Michael Ostrolink of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Karen Effrem [pictured], a pediatrician, said that the screening initiative should concern all parents. The initiative states that “schools must be partners in the mental health care of our children,” according to Effrem. But, “We do not want to be partners with any government program,” she said.
Mental health screening presents clear risks and no evidence of rewards, critics say. Screening programs do not prevent suicide, according to Effrem. Screening programs do, however, often lead to increased drugging. Mood-altering drugs have been linked to suicide among teens.
Psychotropic drug use has increased dramatically among children in recent years—from 1991-1995 there was a 300% increase in psychotropic drug use in 2-4 year olds. Psychotropic drugs often have serious, even deadly side effects. Canada recently suspended the sale of Adderall, a drug used to treat ADHD. Adderall remains available in the United States.
“Children’s brains are still developing, and the truth is we have no idea what the long-term side effects of psychiatric drugs may be,” according to Rep. Paul, who is a medical doctor. “Medical science has not even exhaustively identified every possible brain chemical, even as we alter those chemicals with drugs.”
Critics of mandatory screening object to it not only as an unwelcome intrusion of government, but also on moral grounds. They fear that the program may overstep its bounds and target unorthodox ideas. Effrem notes that the commission includes as early warning signs of mental illness “intolerance for differences and prejudicial attitudes.”
Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.