Contributors: John Ryan

By John Ryan, MFI Media Chair

You and your family have a right to safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs.

The mental health industry is targeting all Americans, especially youth. Here are two of their marketing strategies:

  1. “Mental health screening programs” for mental illness in your school and physician’s office are often unscientific, vague, and disempowering.
  2. False advertising about a “chemical imbalance” in the brain is used to sell you psychiatric drugs — such as this image from Pfizer promoting Zoloft.Pfizer Misleading Ad

Watch Out for Mental Health Screening

A screening program called Suicide Risk Screen was tried in 2004 at ten urban high schools. It found almost 30% of the students to be “at risk.” Officials found the two-step questionnaire with follow-up interviews so impractical that they decided to discontinue it.

The best known and best financed of the screening programs is TeenScreen, created by Columbia University psychiatry department. TeenScreen officials won’t release its questions to the public, nor will they disclose their funding sources.

An Indiana teenager was given the test, which requires yes or no answers to questions, without her parents’ consent. She was informed that based on her responses she “liked to clean” and “didn’t like to party very much,” she suffered from at least two mental health problems, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. The Rutherford Institute is suing the school on behalf of the parents.

We know from interviewing students who have taken the test that some of the questions have included: “Have you ever felt like you are unattractive to the opposite sex?”, “Have you ever felt like you are unpopular?”, “Do you sometimes fight with your parents?”, “Have you often felt very nervous when you’ve had things to do in front of people?” These questions are so general that practically all adolescents have felt those emotions at one time or other.

Looking out for troubled youth is one thing. But mental health screening threatens to march tens of thousands of youth to the door of a mental health system that has been largely taken over by the psychiatric drug industry.

Drug Company Fraud

There are no laboratory tests to detect mental “illnesses” such as: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Mathematics Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, etc. that these teenagers are often labeled with.

These “disorders” are determined from lists of behaviors that are listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s billing bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, 4th edition, (DSM-IV), and the evaluator’s personal interpretation of a teen or child’s behavior.

The idea that what is called mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, and other anxiety problems are caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain — of unknown origin – is an unproven hypothesis and little more than mere conjecture. For example, there are ads claiming that a “serotonin deficiency” causes depression, and that a certain drug will restore your brain to its “correct” balance. This claim cannot be scientifically validated. There is no way that we can quantitatively measure the serotonin (or any other neurotransmitter) level in a living human’s brain. Hence there can be no benchmark correct balance.

Pharmaceutical company advertisements can repeat this false claim several million more times, and it still will not make the claim any more valid.

One Small Step: Pass the Child Medication Safety Act!

These aggressive, fraudulent marketing tactics put all Americans at risk, especially youth. There is at least one small step we as Americans can take to begin to address the crisis.

The Child Medication Safety Act was first introduced in Congress by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) in 2003. It passed the House but was killed in the Senate. Essentially the same bill was re-introduced in the House in 2005 by John Kline (R-MN) as HR 1790. HR 1790 again passed the House overwhelmingly, 407 to 12, and in 2006 it is awaiting action by the Senate where it is sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

The Child Medication Safety Act (CMSA) would prohibit schools from requiring parents to put their children on powerful psychotropic medications as a condition of keeping them in school.

The CMSA bill is again held up in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. A key committee member blocking CMSA from getting a hearing is Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the ranking Democrat on the committee.

Dr. Karen Effrem of testified in Congress that medical literature demonstrates that these medications are often overused, ineffective, have dangerous side effects, and that the “disorders” that they treat are vague social constructs — that there are many other reasons for behavior and learning disorders that do not require medication.

Those favoring CMSA legislation are asked to contact their US Senators and urge passage of the bill.

For more information e-mail to usa (at)

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