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Depression Screenings Don't Belong In Our Schools
May 5, 2004
by Tony Zizza

A recent article in the Denver Post reports Denver Health's School-Based Health Centers are screening every student - for depression - who steps inside any one of the 11 school-based "clinics."

Come again? Why are clinics being set up in schools to screen children for depression? Oh, I forgot. Depression is big business. Depression, rather than drive, defines us. It's cool to be depressed. As if grade inflation and the anti-capitialist mindset in schools isn't enough of a problem for children to contend with, now schools are playing doctor and legal drug pusher. It's a national disgrace.

Think about this for a moment. Please. Who gets to define depression? What really constitutes a depression so deep it requires medication? When did we allow depression, rather than determination, to direct ourselves and children? Where are all the medical professionals who prescribe exercise instead of antidepressants? Why are suggestive survey questions and an incomplete history enough to prescribe children in school with antidepressants? How can we sit back and allow our children to be diagnosed and drugged with antidepressants - without a fight?

Fight we must. Our children are literally being profiled and lured into accepting a depressive disorder diagnosis and drugs for themselves. Big Pharma and the mental health profession know children are a human source of job protection. The accepted practice of blaming the entertainment industry for leading our children down dangerous roads is silly when the real menace facing children now are school-based clinics, and psychiatry itself.

According to Dr. Paul Melinkovich, director of Denver Health's School-Based Health Centers, there is "a shortage of adolescent psychiatrists." Well, duh. When children 15 or older can give consent for mental health treatment, and when nurse practioners and family physicians are prescribing antidepressants like candy so as to impress the pharmaceutical sales representatives who visit them, where is the need for genuine adolescent psychiatry if ever there was a basis for this field in the first place?

Presently, the entire landscape surrounding the issue of depression is one of negativity, dependence and lifelong disease management. Our children are falsely being labeled with "chronic depression" and then told -- right in the middle of adolescence -- you will always have to battle this "disease."

May is Mental Health Month, and our country has a gigantic identity crisis. Why have we accepted depression screenings as a medical procedure when organizations such as Freedom From Fear lead the mental health advocacy charge with a National Campaign on Anxiety and Depression? While the mission of FFF is to "aid and counsel individuals and families who suffer from anxiety and depressive illness", who really can't see that depression screenings are free advertising for medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies?

Sometimes I wonder how our children would really fare in this world if we were willing to teach by example, instead of thinking depression screenings for the whole family is the answer. Our schools need to teach children the basics, not view them as depressed, incapable of navigating through adolescence without legal happy pills. After all, haven't we been fighting the War on Drugs -- for a reason?

So, let's give these school-based mental health clinics the boot. A sharp dichotomy exists between disease mongering by adults who work in these clinics as well as adults who work in the mental health profession, and our children's need for knowledge and growth.

Depression screenings don't belong in our schools. And adults must be on guard too. I wonder if Terry Bradshaw and Donny Osmond discovered they were depressed and needed to be official antidepressant spokespeople after they were screened and shown videos by drug companies that now employ them?

Zizza serves as Vice President/Georgia of Parents For Label and Drug Free Education. He writes frequently about parenting issues. Email comments to him at: tz777@yahoo.com

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