Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ouch! Burned my fingers on this one...

This is a letter to the editor from a mother in Fort Madison, Iowa. It is apparently an answer to an attack on a previous letter she wrote, but the content of this letter is self-explanatory.

It is from the Opinion section of the Fort Madison Daily Democrat newspaper.

Fort Madison Daily, Iowa
December 19, 2006
Mission accomplished - My objective was to make parents think twice about TeenScreen

I wrote the original letter about the Teen Screen test being given in the schools. Ms. Gutman and Ms. Jarvis said "much of the letter was inaccurate and seemingly misinformed." I'm wondering what was inaccurate or misinformed.

The first thing they addressed was that the test was given with the consent of the parents and the students. I never said anything to indicate it wasn't. As a matter of fact, in my letter I said "Central Lee sends home a permission slip, but the permission slip gives the parent no idea of the content of the test or the repercussions." So I wasn't inaccurate or misinformed in that.

My letter said that it's being billed as a "suicide prevention test." Their letter called it a "suicide risk screening program." Very little difference there. Their letter said "TeenScreen is a screening program only and does not involve diagnosis or treatment as the letter insinuates." I believe Teresa Rhoades of Indiana would have to disagree with that. She has filed a lawsuit because her daughter was diagnosed and labeled at school without the benefit of her parents' presence. By the time her daughter came home from school at the end of the day, she was very distraught because she didn't understand the meaning of obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. I have used her name with permission and she also gave me permission to include her e-mail address. You may check the facts with her directly at or Google Teen Screen Lawsuits.

Their letter goes on to explain how this test is not "affiliated with or funded by any pharmaceutical companies." I find it very interesting that you should suggest that, as I never suggested any such thing in my letter. I suggested that the desire was to put the teen on psychotropic drugs. A doctor doesn't have to have any affiliation with a pharmaceutical company to prescribe a medication for a patient. The quote "me thinks thee doth protest too much" comes to mind.

You then said that teen suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens. And while any number is unacceptable, it only stands to reason that it would be second only to trauma. After all, most teens don't die of heart attacks or strokes. You made it sound as if we're in the midst of an epidemic of teen suicides. As anyone who's been following these letters can see, that's hardly the case. Teen suicide is actually very rare.

As the last letter said, do we really need a test putting ideas in the minds of emotionally healthy young people when it's highly likely that a teen who's considering suicide will show signs that family, teachers, friends or clergy will already have picked up on and be working with? I also listed some of the questions on the test. I can assure you those were neither inaccurate nor misinformed. My daughter took the test and stated unequivocally those questions were on the test. My goal was to get parents to think about what is going on with their children at school and check it out. So I very much appreciate your letter in that if people have been reading the Letters to the Editor, I have very likely achieved that goal.

Jeannie Hetzer

Ft. Madison

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