Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, October 03, 2005

We are definitely nuts . . .

. . . if we let the Bush administration turn adolescence into a disease. A couple of months back I posted about the rising prevalence of psychiatric disorders, which is a function not of changes in our well-being but of the constant invention of new disease labels for various states of unhappiness or social deviance. Over at Effect Measure, I talked about Bush administration plans in motion to screen the entire population for mental disorders, and then prescribe them pills according to an algorithm developed by drug companies.

It seems the first steps are underway. According to Jean Lenzer writing in the British Medical Journal,

The parents of an Indiana teenager have filed a suit in a federal court in the state's Northern District, charging that school officials violated their privacy rights and parental rights by subjecting their daughter to a mental health screening examination without their permission.

The suit is seen as significant because President Bush has promoted a controversial plan to encourage widespread mental health screening for people "of all ages" in the United States (BMJ 2004;328;1458). The screening programme at the centre of the legal suit, TeenScreen, was endorsed as a "model" programme by President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.

The complaint, filed on 19 September, charges that in December 2004 Chelsea Rhoades, then a 15 year old student at Penn High School, Mishawaka, was told she had obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder after she took the TeenScreen examination. Chelsea has spoken out against the screening and, with her parents, alleges in the complaint that "a majority" of the students "subjected to TeenScreen" with her were also told they had "some mental or psychological disorder."

As Michael Wilkes points out in the same article, adolescents have their moods. They don't have a prom date, they think a friend betrayed them, they fumbled in the big football game, whatever. Screen them on that day, they will test as depressed. Then, according to the next step in the administration plan, the Texas Medication Algorithm Project, you give them Prozac. Then Eli Lilly gives more money to the Republican Party.

Who says perpetual motion is impossible?

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