Planned Therapeutic Nanny State: No Matter the Motives, Efforts to Do Routine Mental Health Testing on Children in America's Schools Need to Be Stopped before They Do Irreparable Damage

By Gilmore, Jodie | The New American, November 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

Planned Therapeutic Nanny State: No Matter the Motives, Efforts to Do Routine Mental Health Testing on Children in America's Schools Need to Be Stopped before They Do Irreparable Damage


Gilmore, Jodie, The New American


The "Final Report" of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, a federal panel created in 2002 to "promote successful community integration for adults with a serious mental illness and children with a serious emotional disturbance," calls for the "total transformation" of America's "mental health delivery system." If implemented, the commission's recommendations would ultimately lead to mandatory mental health screening of all of America's schoolchildren.

The commission's "Final Report" recommends that mental health screening take place "in both readily accessible, low-stigma settings, such as primary health care facilities and schools, ... during their routine physical exams." (Emphasis added.) This arrangement would be necessary to accomplish what the report calls "routine and comprehensive testing and screening." In fact, all Americans would need to undergo such screening, since, according to the report, "Mental illness ranks first among illnesses which cause disability" in the U.S., and it is presently "under-recognized as a public health burden." So for our own good, all Americans--starting with schoolchildren--must undergo federally mandated mental health examinations.

The commission's report repeatedly states that mental health testing in schools needs to be "transformed" and "expanded" It defines as a "serious mental disturbance" a mental condition that "substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities," and it defines those activities as "functioning in social, family, and vocational/educational contexts." Teachers are already required to assess the behavior of students who cannot function adequately in those contexts, so the report's recommendations would obviously lead to many more children who exhibit such behavior being diagnosed as mentally disturbed. In fact, routine mental health screening of all students would undoubtedly lead to many children who don't exhibit such behavior being deemed mentally impaired based on government test results.

The report cites examples of symptoms of mental impairment, including "an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers" and "inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances." Therefore, each judgment of whether someone is mentally ill or not will be completely subjective.

This government created testing is not only unnecessary, it is also dangerous because it will likely get abused, used not only to screen for mentally ill behavior but for unwanted attitudes. Karen Effrem, M.D., explained the danger: "I am concerned, especially in schools, that mental health could be ... [diagnosed] based on attitudes, values, beliefs, and political stances--things like perceived homophobia.... This mental health program could be used as an enforcement tool to impose a very politically correct, anti-American curriculum."

In addition to being dangerous in principle, universal mental health screening presents many grounds for specific objections, such as the following:

* To be accurate, mental health diagnoses must be made by qualified professionals over a period of time. …

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