Wednesday, January 17, 2007

TeenScreen Is In Big Trouble

by Doyle Mills
January 15, 2007

The TeenScreen program is in big trouble.

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. An on-line petition with 16,000+ signatures, calls on state and federal legislators to "Stop TeenScreen's Unscientific and Experimental 'Mental Health Screening ' of American School Children ".

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.

TeenScreen Straw Man Argument #1:

"We are not funded by drug companies!”, a statement found in practically every TeenScreen press release. Since TeenScreen refuses to divulge its funding sources, it’s impossible to know if this assertion is true. However, it is an example of the straw man argument. Nobody is claiming that TeenScreen is funded by drug companies. What is claimed, and can be verified, is that TeenScreen's advisory board is rife with major pharmaceutical company ties. Without belaboring the point, here is just a sampling:

• Robert Postlethwait, a TeenScreen advisory board member, spent 30 years at Eli Lilly until he retired in 1999. In 2004, according to a DarPharma Inc. press release, Postlethwait joined it's board of directors. DarPharma, Inc. is a company that develops "novel" psychotropic drugs.

• Catherine "Deeda" Blair, another TeenScreen advisory board member, has earned fees or stock from at least a half-dozen drug and biotech companies including Novartis, where she still consults, according a 2004 report by Fairchild Publications, Inc.

• In 2004 Michael Hogan, another TeenScreen advisory board member, won the Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award.

You can find other TeenScreen advisory board members and their ties to pharmaceutical companies, courtesy of a website called

Local TeenScreen operations can accept funds from drug companies or other groups that stand to make a profit from children identified as “mentally ill” by the screening process. One TeenScreen site, in Tennessee, accepted money directly from Eli Lilly, a major manufacturer of psychiatric drugs. TeenScreen’s defense is that they ”strongly recommend” that local groups do not receive drug company funding, so as to avoid the “appearance of a possible inducement to recommend treatment”. Note that they are concerned with the appearance of impropriety, not the truly dangerous situation of profit-oriented enterprises being given access to our young people.

Wherever TeenScreen pops up in various school districts, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) can be found there pushing it. Invariably, NAMI helps spearhead the introduction of TeenScreen into schools. When local parents and civic groups speak out against the program, NAMI is TeenScreen’s most vocal defender. NAMI published a guide for its members with TeenScreen's straw man “talking points” in an attempt to counteract opposition to TeenScreen. NAMI has received millions of dollars in pharmaceutical company funding. (Note: Although TeenScreen is very secretive and will not release the names of the schools they have infiltrated, many can be found here thanks to the enterprising work of a few parents who are scouring the country hunting them down.)

TeenScreen Straw Man Argument #2:

"We don't provide treatment!" It is true that TeenScreen is not directly in the treatment business. That fact is easily proven and that’s why this straw man argument is used. What opponents actually say is that many of those students screened will be referred to psychiatric treatment (drugs). TeenScreen’s own website makes it clear that treatment is integral to the screening process. The section entitled How to Start a Site includes this line: “Before you begin screening, a plan must be in place to manage the teens identified from the screening and ensure that they can access appropriate mental health services.”

Laurie Flynn, the Executive Director of TeenScreen, makes this point very clearly in an article she wrote, “The long-term goal of TeenScreen is not just identification, but treatment for those in need. The TeenScreen program is a five-step process ... In the final step, a case manager meets with teens and makes referrals for further evaluation and treatment.”

Treatment for those children identified by the TeenScreen program likely would include psychotropic drugging - which of course is a very profitable enterprise. Some of the drugs used to “treat” depression are known to cause suicidal ideation and induce violent behavior, and are required by the Food and Drug Administration to carry “black box” warnings stating this danger. TeenScreen itself admits that a percentage of the kids they screen and refer will wind up on drugs. Of course, they prefer to use the more benign-sounding term "medication". According to a study recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, kids who committed suicide were 15 times more likely to have been on antidepressants. This supposed suicide "prevention" program will likely increase teen suicides. Ironic indeed.

TeenScreen Straw Man Argument #3:

"We don't diagnose!" Certainly opponents of the program are not claiming that TeenScreen's 2-day-trained screeners diagnose anyone. That would be grounds for criminal action - practicing medicine without a license. Yet, the truth is that TeenScreen personnel are involved in the diagnosis. TeenScreen's "Screening Information Form" is filled out by screeners after the suicide survey is done on a child. The form contains check boxes for Social Phobia, Generalized Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive, Depression and Panic Disorder. No, TeenScreen does not diagnose but they do set up the child for a diagnosis. As an analogy, they are not the bank robbers; they are the get away drivers - an accomplice to the diagnosis.

TeenScreen Straw Man Argument #4:

"We require written parental consent!" Bowing to public and media pressure, TeenScreen announced in August of 2006 that they would start requiring schools to obtain written parental consent before a child is screened which crippled the program's reach. TeenScreen’s previous public stance was to allow a surreptitious scheme known as “passive consent”. If the parent did not return a form specifically saying NO to screening - parental consent was assumed. In reality, many children were screened without their parents’ consent or knowledge. Though clearly unethical and illegal per federal law, this method drastically increased the number of children who could be screened. Some schools, apparently unaware of the national controversy, still use TeenScreen's passive consent method.

The brouhaha about active and passive consent misses the point made by TeenScreen’s opponents. In a letter to the editor published in The Fort Madison Daily Democrat, Jeannie Hetzer stated, “(the school) sends home a permission slip, but the permission slip gives the parent no idea of the content of the test or the repercussions.” In her article entitled “What TeenScreen Doesn’t Want You to Know about Parental Consent”, educator Mary Collins stated, “There are federal and state laws requiring ‘informed consent’, meaning that before someone agrees to participate in any medical procedure or experiment, they must be informed of and must understand the medical facts and the risks involved…NO TeenScreen sites use full informed consent.”

Certainly, TeenScreen DOES NOT provide full informed consent on what the ramifications of screening are and does not inform parents about the national controversy and the arguments against screening.

TeenScreen Straw Man Argument #5:

"It's the Scientologists who are against us!" Although Scientologists certainly should be flattered with that honorable distinction, many of the 700 plus doctors (to date) who have signed the "NO to TeenScreen petition" found here may disagree with that straw man argument. The creator of the petition, Teresa Rhoades is a Baptist according to the Daily Oklahoman. She is suing in federal court because her child was screened and diagnosed without parental consent. Rhoades says: "What does religion have to do with it?" Christians and homeschoolers have been some of the staunchest critics of psychiatric screening in schools. Many state directors of The Eagle Forum, a family rights group, have worked on legislation against mental screening in schools. Jews, Catholics, Christians and Hare Krishna's are working against mental screening of kids in schools. Many and various religious, scientific, education, medical, anti-government intrusion, media and other groups are rebelling against TeenScreen's goal to screen every child before they graduate from high school. Parents from all walks of life, whose children have been harmed by psychotropic drugs, might also wish to be included in the opposition. Michael Hogan, director of the Ohio Mental Health Department and TeenScreen proponent, referred to those opposed to mass child mental screening as the “Curious Coalition”. Although TeenScreen proponents don't feel the need to announce their own religion when they are out campaigning to suicide screen, chances are they belong to the cult of biological psychiatry.

TeenScreen Straw Man Argument #6:

“Suicide is a leading cause of death in teens!" Opponents of TeenScreen don't argue that point. It can be verified by simply looking up the statistics on the internet. However, TeenScreen will not tell you the actual numbers for fear that no one will take them seriously. Suicide in young people is very, very rare. The word “suicide” tugs at the heart strings. Any suicide is certainly a tragedy and one suicide is one too many. TeenScreen's sales pitch on this point is effective in gaining sympathy from school administrators and parents who have not done their homework. If they elected to do their research on their own geographical area, they could find the low numbers from the Center for Disease Control website, which you can find here.

The solution, if there could possibly be one for the rare cases, would certainly not be to screen every child in a school, especially when many will wind up on the same drugs that carry FDA mandated Black Box warnings that these drugs carry a significant risk of serious or even life-threatening adverse effects such as suicidal ideation!

TeenScreen’s claims that they are a "suicide risk screening program for youth” is a carefully worked out marketing scheme to gain support for their activity. The public at large cares about our next generation and would do anything to prevent suicide. What TeenScreen actually does is get more youth into the mental health system. They "partner" with local mental agencies and shrinks who become the recipients of the new customers and the profits. TeenScreen does not "partner" with non-psychiatric medical doctors to find a very possible physical source of a child's behavior, such as allergies, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, toxicities and even side effects of psychiatric drugs!

TeenScreen is under attack, and rightly so. Our next generation is in danger and we cannot afford to let the future of this society be decided by straw man arguments. Demand that TeenScreen answer the tough questions and the real concerns. Then our lawmakers and school personnel can make the right decisions.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wisconsin Psychologist Rips TeenScreen - After Receiving TeenScreen Training!

This letter was published by the Kenosha Parents Union. You can read it on their web site by clicking here.

Kenosha Parents Union is an organization of parents and community members working to Kenosha's strengthen public schools

Letter to Sheboygan Psychologist re TeenScreen

Sheboygan South High School
Attn. Dr. Fred Sutkiewicz
School Psychologist

Dear Fred,

Thank you again for meeting with my psychology interns and myself a few weeks ago. This meeting, combined with the TeenScreen training that I went through with you about a year ago has helped me better understand the overall program. Based upon everything I have learned about the program, I have serious concerns about the program and how it will negatively impact our community and youth.

As you are well aware by now, I am interested in the TeenScreen program due to the overwhelming power it has on the students, parents and our community at large. You personally are in a unique position, given the sheer number of students you come across and the many other individuals you will meet as a result of this program (e.g. parents, caregivers, community groups). I definitely see a need for extending help to those in need and having an active interest in students’ academic and emotional well being; however, the TeenScreen Program is not the best course of action for helping our young community. I hope you carefully review my concerns listed below, do a follow up review of the information I provided, and do your best to track any potential benefits and the negative consequences the program. I must also add that I was pleased to hear that you decided to break from the TeenScreen Manual protocol, which clearly endorses and uses language endorsing referrals to medical practitioners (e.g. psychotropic drugs), and use your best judgment with regards to providing appropriate referrals.

Due to the multiple other concerns regarding the program, I am forwarding this letter to the School Board for review as well. If, after reviewing the information below, you or the school Board would like to conduct a more point-by-point discussion about the program or choose not to continuing endorsing the program (e.g. as did several other school districts such as the Pinellas County School District in Pinellas, FL, Fresno Unified School District in Fresno, CA- where I did my graduate work and helped stop the TeenScreen Program from starting) I would be happy to meet with you to discuss creating a specific outreach program for our young community, one that may be more cost effective in the long run.

Since the field of psychology and psychiatry is unlike all other branches of health and medicine, (e.g. not adhering to the same rigorous objective standards for diagnosing and instead being quite subjective in nature, not having even one biological test for any psychiatric disorder, having poor agreement between mental health professionals not only for diagnosing, but also for the cause for all the disorders-often called “illnesses”, and having even poorer agreement from mental health professionals as to the best coarse of treatment), I was concerned to learn that our local schools began making psychiatric and psychological referrals based upon a subjective test that identifies 50% more students as at risk than highly trained clinicians do (e.g. per the TeenScreen training session that stated approximately 50% of the students sent to the clinician for an immediate follow-up mental health screening interview will not be found in need of an outside referral.) Given the subjective nature of the mental health field, it also should be concerning that of the 60% of the student body that takes the TeenScreen test, 16% of the interviewed students will be referred to an outside “practitioner” or agency. I know you stated that our community only had approximately 50% screened and that about 11% were referred to outside practitioners, but I have not heard back from you with regards as to where these children were sent to (e.g. psychiatrist or other medical doctor for drugs, family treatment or individual counseling).

Since I still have not heard where the children are being sent to, and since I inquired at the training numerous times about the referral process but was told you could not go into details about the guidance counselor training or referral process, it is clear the TeenScreen program does not want to discuss where they are sending these children. When I am asked to conduct a client-centered consultation and to make treatment referrals and/or recommendations, the clinical interview and data collected from this in-depth interview guides the treatment referrals and recommendations that I make. It appeared much more appropriate when I heard that the “interviewers” by the volunteer therapists were able to have some discussion and follow up questioning when a student was marked as having a “mental illness” or problem. Unfortunately, Teen Screen does not allow for the one who has all the information to make the referral, but rather the one individual who was trained by Teen Screen, who may not have any in depth psychological training.

Your referral process, debriefing discussion and verbal discussions with parents will ultimately direct their understanding of any potential problem, and will also ultimately direct their care (e.g. family therapist, individuals therapy, Priest, Minister, Rabi, psychiatrist, neurologist, pediatrician, etc...). Given this, I am sure you understand the significant and considerable difference between seeing a individual therapist specializing in child-adolescent therapy, obtaining skill-based education, and obtaining a average fifteen minute medical consult where by the data states that 90% of them will walk out with a prescription for a psychotropic drug.

The mental health field has continually been plagued with each specific treatment camp claiming to have the best type of treatment for a particular disorder. However, with recent meta-analysis studies coming out about the effectiveness of particular treatments, it has become even more confusing for researchers and practitioners alike to decide which treatment may serve a particular client best (Kirsch & Moore, 2002; Prevention and Treatment, Vol. 5, #23). Since the mental health field has not been consistent in determining a “best course of treatment”, nor has agreed that any approach is superior to one or another, I can only hope you personally decide not to follow other Teen Screen programs that predominantly and/or only states you will refer to physicians who in turn prescribes psychotropic drugs. I hope you will keep categorical referral records, and will allow researchers like myself access to this data to determine if the program actually has any benefit.

Regarding the letters that are sent to parents, I am also concerned that the three letters you handed out to us during the training session (e.g. one thanking the parent for the follow through on the TeenScreen recommendation, one stating the parent agreed to the screening but the child chose not to take the test, and a third stating the parent did not comply and seek treatment for their child which was against your and the TeenScreen recommendation) are not the only letters that could be sent to a parent or child protective agency. I still have not seen the other letters you were going to forward to us for review. Nevertheless, the last letter indicated above assumes that a parent did not seek a consultation after hearing that the TeenScreen check off list marked their child as potentially having a “mental illness” or problem; however, this letter does not account for the possibility that a parent sought out another opinion or even treatment but simply wants to protect their family privacy from the school system and government (i.e. they did seek counseling and simply did not tell the child’s school about it.) During the training session, you mentioned a certified letter that would be sent to parents if they did not respond to initial letters. Based upon the numerous attempts to get children screened and the numerous follow up letters available, it is clear the goal is to have the parent follow the TeenScreen referral recommendation. Again, this places the TeenScreen recommendation in a very influential and powerful position. To this extent, I really am interested in your “training program” for making these recommendations, and I request to see what the TeenScreen Manual recommends, especially since my son and daughter could be potential South High School TeenScreen statistic.

I am additionally concerned that during the training session you made reference to the support of the TeenScreen Program, but failed to mention anything about the drawbacks and limitations of the program and of the mental health professionals who admittedly oppose it. As a researcher, it is difficult to weight the pros and cons of a program when the program discussion only focuses upon how beneficial it might be, but yet fails to produce peer reviewed evidence demonstrating the benefits and failures of the program. Most importantly, there is no data to suggest that the TeenScreen Program actually lowers suicides. This program has been running for quite some time now, and I have not seen any peer reviewed data showing that the TeenScreen actually lowers suicide. Instead, TeenScreen’s own co-director, Rob Caruano, has acknowledged there is no proof or data available to demonstrate that the program reduces suicide rates (Dec. 22, 2004; South Bend Tribune-IN by D. Rumach, “TeenScreen assesses mental health of high school students.”) Additionally, the TeenScreen program was established in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1997 . According to a 2003 Tulsa World newspaper article, Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, stated: “To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest number of youth suicides we’ve ever had during the school year -- a number we find very frightening.” If the program is supposed to work, how can you explain this phenomenon?

Researchers and psychiatrists alike are even coming forth saying TeenScreen is unworkable. Nathaniel Lehrman, MD, former Clinical Director of Kingsbro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn, NY, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein & SUNY Downstate Colleges of Medicine, stated, “The claim by the director of Columbia University’s TeenScreen Program that her program would significantly reduce suicides is unsupported by the data. Indeed, such screenings would probably cause more harm than good. It is impossible, on cursory examination, or on the basis of the Program’s brief written screening test, to detect suicidality or “mental illness,” however we define it.” Dr. Lehrman and I discussed these issues in person in October 2005, and he was quite clear that even the process of screening for mental disorders can evoke or create psychiatric symptoms, thus leading to and possibly accounting for all the False Positives that the Teen Screen researchers acknowledge. He and I also agree that by having the screening device in the schools, with all the pressure to take the test from teachers, counselors, parents, etc..., it violates the privacy of those in whom these subjective “diseases” are sought.

Additionally, Dr. Marcia Angell, Harvard Medical School professor of Ethics and best selling author stated that the TeenScreen Program “is just a way to put more people on prescription drugs” and that such programs will boost the sales of antidepressants even after the FDA in September ordered black-box warning labels, warnings that stated that these drugs will not reduce, but rather create suicidal thoughts or behaviors in minors (The New York Post, December 5, 2004). As a result of the black-box warning labels that stated the SSRI antidepressants cause suicides and suicidal ideation, even in people who are not suicidal, sales instantly and sharply fell. Nonetheless, our school system has adopted a catch-all screening program that was created by previously paid drug company representatives and researchers (e.g. Laurie Flynn).

I am also concerned about the inference you made during the training session last year, an inference I pointed out during our meeting with the interns, whereby you stated the decrease in suicides over the past few decades was the result of the SSRI antidepressants. As you recall, you showed a graph demonstrating the reduction in suicides for our youth; however, you indicated that the decrease came as a result of the antidepressants drugs commonly called SSRI’s coming to the market. This is simply not true, as there is no data to support such an inference. Instead, the FDA and research has been quite clear: if you take an SSRI antidepressant drug, such as Prozac, Paxil, Luvox, or Effexor, you will be more likely to commit suicide and to have suicidal ideation, all things being considered.

Because the increase in suicide from taking SSRIs has been so clearly demonstrated, the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the equivalent to our FDA, in Great Britain recently banned all but one of the SSRI’s for anyone under the age of eighteen, noting that the one remaining SSRI drug, Prozac, although they could not be certain it caused people to commit suicide or become suicidal, “only worked in 1 of our 10 cases”. The drug companies are not able to find one study showing a reduction effect, but yet you allowed this inference to be made to all the counselor attendees at South High. I hope you are not continuing to make this inference, as it is unethical and inaccurate at best and quite dangerous and proven to be deadly at worst.

Likewise, there is no data proving that screening will prevent suicides, the whole reason this screening program came about to begin with. According to The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (May 2004):

A. “There is no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.” B. “There is limited evidence on the accuracy of screening tools to identify suicide risk.” C. “There is insufficient evidence that treatment of those at high risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.” D. “No studies were found that directly address the harms of screening and treatment for suicide risk. “

I will address the reason the FDA and the TeenScreen program did not follow Great Britain’s actions later, but for now, I believe the SASD and you personally need to consider the following. If the Sheboygan Area School District (SASD) and its counselors who adopt the Teen Screen approach adopt a program that has a tendency or makes it customary to refer to “practitioners”, whereby the leading referral is to a medical doctor (knowing that approximately 90% of psychiatric referrals lead to a prescription- (Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 2002), and the SASD and their counselors have been made aware of the serious health problems associated with these antidepressant, stimulant and neuroleptic drugs, and finally if the SASD and its counselors know that the number of students referred could exceed the number of student actually in need of true mental health assistance (e.g. based upon the difference in the screening instrument and a clinician’s expertise), then the Sheboygan School District and its counselors could be found liable for the negative consequences that will ultimately result from this program.

I know of only one case in which someone was potentially liable and needed to pay for not medicating a child, but yet there are thousands and thousands of cases in which children are harmed by these drugs, doctors and school system referrals. I found no less than 4 specific cases recently going through the court system whereby a children or their parents sued their school district for the TeenScreen Program. This number does not include the dozens of cases that came up for teachers, counselors and school officials referring students to medical doctors for psychotropic drugs outside of the TeenScreen Program and settled outside of court, sealing all documents from the public eye.

Now that I have addressed several concerns, I would like to review how and why the program is being so quickly accepted across the United States despite the lack of evidence that it lowers suicides.

So where did Teen Screen come from? TeenScreen was developed by psychiatrist David Shaffer of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Shaffer is a consultant for pharmaceutical companies that make psychotropic drugs (see page 21 of Executive Summary report, dated Jan. 21, 2004; American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, “Preliminary Report of the Task Force on SSRI’s and Suicidal Behavior in Youth.”) He has served as an expert witness for and on behalf of various drug companies, and he has been a paid consultant for specific psychotropic drugs. Some of his suicide surveys are made financially possible through an educational grant from Pfizer Inc., once receiving over $1,250,000 from just one of the drug companies (see American Foundation for Suicide Prevention press release, May 8, 2000.) In December of 2003, British drug regulators recommended against the use of SSRI antidepressants in the treatment of depressed children under 18 because some of the drugs had been linked to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. However, according to a Dec. 11, 2003, New York Times article, Shaffer, at the request of the maker of a psychotropic drug, attempted to block the British findings from being released, sending a letter to the British drug agency saying that there was insufficient data to restrict the use of the drugs in adolescents.

The director of the Teen Screen Program is Ms. Laurie Flynn. Ms. Flynn and the Teen Screen Program initially searched the newspapers throughout the US looking for reports of teens who had committed suicide. When they found such a tragedy, the program then sent a letter to the editors of the local newspaper telling them about how the Teen Screen Program could be a “solution” (Goode, E., British Warning on Anti-depressants Use for Youth, in New York Times, Dec. 11, 2003.) Like Shaffer, Flynn also had financial support from pharmaceutical companies that make psychotropic drugs. She served as the director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), which received no less than 11.7 million dollars from 18 different drug companies from 1996-1999, the largest being Eli Lilly, maker of Prozac. Ms. Flynn demonstrated her interest in trying to get children screened, calling for a “horse to ride” in order to gain access by an individual within or close to the school district board (see letter at

Lastly, Ohio Mental Health Director, Michael Hogan, and California Director Stephen Mayberg are part of the Teen Screen Advisory Board. Hogan is also part of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, created by President Bush Sr.. The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health recommends the use of “state-of-the-art treatments” using “specific medications for specific conditions.” The Commission also praised the Texas Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a model medication treatment plan. This federal program endorsed the Teen Screen Program and called it a model program that should be used in all schools, daycares and agencies. The TMAP program, which sets the stage for the Teen Screen Program, is a set of guidelines for physicians to use when deciding what medication to give to a patient for a particular symptom or psychiatric problem. The program advocates the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, but when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication plan in his particular state received money and perqs from the drug companies to have the more expensive drugs listed higher on the TMAP type program, he was fired for talking to the New York Times. Pharmaceutical giant Janssen took the lead in exerting influence over state officials by creating “advisory boards” made up of state mental health directors who were regularly treated to all expense paid trips and conferences. By influencing 50 key officials, the company knew that it would have a good shot at getting a TMAP list adopted in every state. For example, Ohio Mental Health Director Hogan and California Director Mayberg, are New Freedom Commission members who control mental health services in their respective states, and both are also members of a Janssen advisory board. Hogan has proven to be so useful that Eli Lilly gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award. In granting the award it was noted that Hogan had given over 75 paid presentations at conferences since he accepted the position on Bush’s New Freedom Commission. In every keynote speaker engagement that Hogan has performed at, he has been paid by a pharmaceutical company and the conference has been sponsored by a drug company. Interestingly, Bush Sr., who developed the Freedom Commission on Mental Health, endorsing TMAP and TeenScreen, was also on Eli Lilly’s Board of Directors for many years, holds heavy stock in pharmaceutical companies, and obtains huge donations from such companies.

More specifically to Teen Screen, their Funding was said to be given by private donations; however, TeenScreen and Columbia University refused to divulge the source of their funding. Their website says they are funded by private family foundations, corporations and individuals, without naming them. One corner of their Internet site did give a clue to their funding: “A large pharmaceutical company funded the TeenScreen program in Tennessee (, see page 4, left, mid-page). In Florida, Jim McDonough, the director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, was sent an email from Flynn threatening to pull funding if more children were not screened in their community (e.g. March 22, 2004, “We’ve been working with David Shern and USF for 18 months or so and still haven’t got a program going....At this point I’m inclined to re-think the use of our resources. We’re sending about $120k to USF annually. . . . but ultimately we’re not achieving our goals in the community,” Flynn wrote.) Flynn later stated to McDonough that she had to find kids to screen and said, “I’m looking for a horse to ride here!” According to Flynn’s testimony in March 2002, she hopes to screen no less than 7-12 million new potential drug company customers.

I pose the question, aren’t eight million kids on Ritalin enough?

I hope this raises your suspicion as to the “true” agenda to the Teen Screen Program, and has demonstrated sufficiently how the program fails to produce desirable results. The Teen Screen Program is about making profits, not about helping children. To this extent, I present some basic profit calculations. According to the Teen Screen 10 year strategy, TeenScreen wants to make the suicide survey available to all American children.

Since 1991, the Columbia University Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has invested nearly $19 million in the “research” and development of the Columbia TeenScreen program. I ask who will reap the returns?

There are 47.7 million (47,700,000) public school students.
There are 5 million (5,000,000) private school students.

17% of the kids screened by TeenScreen accept counseling (8,959,000). Seventeen percent (17%) may be a low percentage, but I am only taking numbers supplied by TeenScreen.

According to TeenScreen, 9.9% of the kids screened are drugged (5,217,300). TeenScreen says less than ten percent (10%) are prescribed some type of drug. This means that a whopping 60% of kids who accept referral counseling as a result of the suicide survey wind up on drugs. Keep in mind these are TeenScreen’s own numbers; actual figures may be much higher.

One example prescription for a common psychotropic drug is $15.56 per day.
5,217,300 students (customers) x $15.56 per day = $81,181,188 per day.
$81,181,188 x 365 days a year = $29,631,133,620 annually.

That’s nearly 30 billion dollars per year in pharmaceutical sales courtesy of the TeenScreen program.

Multiply that by a lifetime of addiction due to down or up regulation of neuroprocessing, and it is no wonder why drug companies are tripping over themselves to sponsor screening of everyone in the United States (e.g. It is mandated that every pregnant woman and child, infant to 18 years old, be mentally screened by every pediatrician, school and day care every year. That is three screenings per year, every year!). In one Colorado study over 350 youths were suicide screened using TeenScreen’s survey. They found that over 50% were at risk of suicide and 71% screened positive for psychiatric disorders at a youth homeless shelter. That’s not science, that’s a dream come true for drug companies.

Having presented all this, I would be happy to work with the SASD if they are interested in creating a specific program to address emotional well being in our children. I think it is noteworthy to acknowledge that just recently yet another study comparing cognitive psychotherapy to antidepressant medication (Paxil) was just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The research was done at the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University using 240 patients. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and confirmed that the use of psychotherapy intervention worked at least as well as the SSRI, even with moderately to severely depressed patients (i.e. keeping in mind that up to 90% of the medication effect can be explained by placebo effect-sugar pill; Antonuccio, D., Antidepressants: A Triumph of Marketing Over Science?, In Prevention & Treatment, Volume 5, Article 25, posted July 15, 2002.) The study went on to report that if the patients stopped taking the psychiatric drug, they were twice as likely to develop a relapse of depression. The researchers called for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to revise their treatment guidelines to discourage the use of drugs for depressed individuals.

I would respectfully request that the following data and information be given to all parents prior to any screening, as I believe the real issue here is parental rights related to what they deem appropriate for their children. I do not believe the government should interfere and have any legitimate authority to direct a families intimate health matters. I believe there is a right to know about hidden agendas and what could occur if they disagree with the recommendations of the School Counselor. I also ask that the SASD offer an opinion regarding if they are willing to report parents to the Department of Family Services if the parents choose not to medicate their children or agree with the screening device that states their child has a mental disease (i.e. as in the cases of Matthew Smith and Shaina Dunkle who died of medication toxicity after their parents were coerced into placing their children on drugs by their school.) Other examples include the nightmare that Aliah Gleason went through when she was taken from her home, not allowed parental contact for five months while she was placed in foster care, and ultimately forced to take drugs due to the incorrect screening outcomes and misinformed school district. These are tough questions that have not been answered as of yet, and I believe they need to be addressed before child is torn between a well-intentioned school district, school counselor, profit driven program and parent.

Kindest Regards,

Dr. Toby Watson, Psy.D.
Clinical Depth Psychologist
Clinical and Doctoral Training Director
International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology Board Member

Monday, January 15, 2007

Do Legalized Drug Pushers Influence TeenScreen?

This article from the American Chronicle. Read the original by clicking here.

Raise your hand if you think that a drug company’s main purpose is to help mankind? In a perfect world that would be the case, but instead, welcome to Planet Earth. The Board of Directors of any drug company has but one obligation to their stockholders – to provide a good return on their investment by increasing revenue and profits.

Since the 1980’s, the drug industry has been one of the most profitable industries in the world, on par with oil and banking industries. IMS Health, a company that heralds themselves as “the one global source for pharmaceutical intelligence”, stated that in 2005, North American pharmaceutical sales were at $265.7 billion.

Drug companies hammer us with the propaganda on how much money is spent on research, and that out of the millions spent on research, few drugs make money. One could easily be led down this path of deception but careful research shows that the real drug company spending is not research, but marketing.

The top ten pharmaceutical companies invest about 14% of their profits in R&D (Research and Development). However, about 35% is spent on marketing. For every $1.00 spent on research, $2.50 is spent promoting the drugs to the public. These billions of dollars in marketing include drug promotions during nearly every television commercial break, handing out free samples and propaganda to family doctors, sponsoring lavish medical conferences at expensive resorts, and “research grants”.

Millions are also spent on helping to create and support various front groups like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) which forward the drug company’s marketing message covertly. Millions more are spent in lobbying Congress to protect drug company profits. The U.S. government is the largest bulk buyer of drugs, after Wal-Mart, but the "Social Security Prescription Drug Benefit Program" forbids the government from negotiating drug prices with Big Pharma!

A typical “breakthrough” in drug research is merely a drug company in partnership with a university announcing and marketing their own version of a previously released drug for the same disorder. The FDA will approve the new drugs, when provided with short-term studies where the drug companies purportedly show that the drug performs better than a placebo. In 2002, the FDA approved the use of seventy-eight new drugs but only classified seven of these drugs as improvements over older drugs.

Drug company money is funneled into all kinds of research. For instance, the doctors who created "Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder" (PMDD) were funded in part by Eli Lilly Corporation. By “proving” their drug Prozac treats a new “disease”, Lilly was able to extend the patent on the drug for seven more years. Now the exact same drug is marketed under a new name, "Sarafem", to treat women with PMDD. Their slogan became, “Think it’s PMS? It could be PMDD.” Think it's a marketing ploy? You bet it is! Patented drugs are sold at drastically higher prices than non-patented drugs.

Another marketing ploy used is to advertise the name of the drug without stating its use. This allows the company to avoid mentioning the huge list of side effects.

Big Pharma doesn’t stop there. They are now busy making huge donations to pseudo-scientific and official-sounding mental health organizations and screening programs to push even more customers onto their drugs.

“Signs of Suicide” is a program developed by the non-profit group “Screening for Mental Health, Inc.” Tax records show that donations from 2001-2004 included money from Solvay Pharmaceuticals: $27,500, Pfizer: $750,000, Abbott Laboratories: $35,000, Forest Labs: $153,000, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: $100,000, and Eli Lilly: $2,157,925. Why would drug companies donate millions to implement mental health screening if not to increase revenue and profits?

TeenScreen, an invention of psychiatrist David Shaffer, is a screening program which uses questionnaires on children as young as nine, asking questions like, "Have you often felt very nervous when you’ve had to do things in front of people?" and "Are you Hispanic or Latino?" Based on their answers, TeenScreen routes these kids to mental health “professionals", who inevitably decide that these children have symptoms defined as “mental disorders”, justifying prescriptions for antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs for many of these children. TeenScreen’s staff and advisory board are loaded with ties to Big Pharma. See:

TeenScreen’s Director, Laurie Flynn was formerly the head of NAMI National. Between 1996 and mid 1999, NAMI received over 11 million dollars from the drug companies: Janssen ($2.08 million), Novartis ($1.87 million), Pfizer ($1.3 million), Abbott Laboratories ($1.24 million), Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals ($658,000), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($613,505) and Eli Lilly $2.87 million.

The scandals of TeenScreen are not limited to drug company connections. Laurie Flynn also perjured herself in front of a Senate Subcommittee, stating that TeenScreen had partnered with the University of South Florida and were piloting the program in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Yet there were never any pilot programs in these two counties. In fact, the school board of Pinellas County soundly rejected TeenScreen, partially because of Flynn’s false testimony. One school board member was quoted as saying, “I will not do business with an organization that has gone to Congress and told them something that is not true.”

In 2003, drug regulators in the United Kingdom recommended that antidepressants not be used to treat children under eighteen years of age, because of studies showing that the risks greatly outweighed any possible benefit. This is now law and included in their drug warnings. However, at the request of Pfizer, TeenScreen’s David Shaffer created a letter which attempted to block the findings of the U.K. drug regulators.

The results of pushing these dangerous drugs on children and adults include: murder, psychosis, brain damage, liver and heart damage, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicides and actual suicide – all known side effects of psychiatric drugs. How many children and young adults have to be permanently damaged or killed before we just say "NO!" to these legal drugs and to TeenScreen? Now ask yourself, "Who are the criminals?"

Everyone knows that drugs are big business, and the only difference between street dealers, drug lords and Big Pharma is that Big Pharma is legal. Whether your child is hooked by a dealer or by a psychiatrist, the end result will be the same.

For the time being, the psychiatric drug trade is legal. As long as this is the case, drug companies have a legal right to market their wares and make a profit. They do not have a right to slither into schools in order to find new profit centers amongst our children. The public has a right to know the truth about these criminal activities and we all have a responsibility to protect our next generation from unwanted intrusions into their lives for profit.

Special Note: Thousands of concerned citizens have already recognized who the criminals are and have taken decisive action to stop their intrusion into the lives of young people. Join them by clicking on this link:

John Carey has degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science from Texas A&M, and has worked for a major oil company for over 20 years. As a humanitarian endeavor, he has researched extensively on the psychiatric drugging of children. He can be reached here: