14-Year-Old leads Charge against Mental Health Testing in Nation's Schools

November 04, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
Andrew Workman is a soft spoken 14-year-old, with bright blue eyes and glasses. He likes to read Harry Potter stories, write poetry and he aspires to be a teacher. He looks and acts like a typical kid.

However, one soon finds out that he is anything but typical.

Andrew is leading the charge in the Nation against TeenScreen, a mental health screening program. He wants it out of all the schools.

TeenScreen is the brain child of Columbia University’s David Shaffer, Director of Columbia’s Psychiatric Department. Its goal is to evaluate every American Teen, isolate those who don’t exhibit what Shaffer considers to be normal behavior and refer them to psychiatric “treatment”. Unbeknownst to most parents, TeenScreen has managed to get implemented in 45 states. No one knows how many teens have been given a label of mental disorder as a result.

The charge against TeenScreen is nothing new. Parents across the country have been up in arms particularly over the issue of the tactics of "passive consent", or "opt-out", where students only avoid screening if a parent specifically objects to the testing in writing.

Ken Kramer is an investigator from Florida who has spent time creating a list of schools that use passive consent and has put up the most widely studied website opposed to TeenScreen.

“That’s how they get around the parents,” he says. “The kid forgets to bring the form home and the next day he or she is sat down for a ten minute computer test that has a very high probability of ending up in a bogus diagnosis, a diagnosis that will stick with that child forever.”

TeenScreen's preferred method of consent has prompted the filing of the first lawsuit against the program. According to court documents, 15-year-old Chelsea Rhoades from Indiana was screened without her parents' knowledge and consent. Shortly after completing the 10 minute TeenScreen written test, Chelsea was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Social Anxiety Disorder. The person diagnosing Chelsea explained that the OCD disorder was based upon Chelsea's response to the examination that she liked to help clean the house and that her social anxiety disorder was based upon a response in which she indicated that she did not "party" much. Chelsea was also told that if her condition got any worse her mother needed to take in her in for treatment.

Andrew Workman has already started writing letters to school officials in his home state of Ohio.

"TeenScreen is an insult to a person's intelligence," he says. "Why take a test that asks stupid questions that really have no relevance to anything? It doesn't make any sense to me."

He is not the only one who feels this way. TeenScreen's many opponents see it as nothing more than a program trolling for more psychiatric patients. Sheila Matthews, a mother from Connecticut, has been speaking on the radio trying to get the word out about TeenScreen.

"Parents need to be given full informed consent." she says. "They must be told that there is no science to mental health testing, that the only recommended 'treatment' once a kid is unfortunate enough to be diagnosed is suicide and violence inducing psychiatric drugs, and that they run the chance of having their kids taken away from them, and be forcibly drugged if they refused the so-called treatment for the child."

Matthews further states that the only ones who will benefit are the psychiatrists, the drug companies and the pharmaceutical front groups pushing TeenScreen, like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)."

The connection between TeenScreen, NAMI and the pharmaceutical companies does raise valid questions. TeenScreen’s current director is Laurie Flynn. Flynn is also the former director of NAMI, a group that bills itself as a patients’ rights group but actually received in excess of 11 million dollars from drug companies when Flynn was in charge.

Andrew Workman is confident that once other teens find out what TeenScreen is really about they will refuse to be tested.

"The TeenScreen people are not up front about what they do," he states. "But kids are not dumb. Once the word gets out and they figure out that they are being lied to, it's all over."

Andrew has rallied some help to help him build a website so that he can get the word out to other teenagers. It can be viewed at www.teenscreenfacts.com. Ken Kramer’s website is at www.psychsearch.net/teenscreen.html

For more information contact:

Sheila Matthews (203) 966-8419 - sheilamatthews@optonline.net
Or Ken Kramer (727) 461-1955 – datasearch@earthlink.net
or Andrew Workman (330) 723-9944 - business.tws@gmail.com