TeenScreen – Normal Kids Labeled Mentally Ill for Profit

Evelyn Pringle August 2, 2006

Despite years of public outcry, based on recommendations by President Bush’s New Freedom Commission to screen all school children for mental illness, TeenScreen is now being administered in the nation’s public school system and children are being regularly diagnosed with one, or more, disorders chosen from the close to 400 listed in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV” (DSM), also known as the psychiatric “Billing Bible.”

The list of mental disorders to chose from when diagnosing children mentally ill with TeenScreen, are “voted” into the Billing Bible by members of the American Psychiatric Association, and include, among others, conduct disorder, avoidant personality disorder, mathematics disorder, reading disorder, disorder of written expression, general anxiety disorder, nightmare disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and factious disorder.

A mental illness that drew a lot of ridicule recently, is called the “intermittent explosive disorder,” for people who fly into occasional but unwarranted fits of rage.

Critics view TeenScreen is a main components in an overall pharmaceutical industry-backed marketing scheme pushed along by the NFC, aimed at recruiting new customers for psychiatric drugs. The NFC’s report specifically identifies the target population Big Pharma is after when it states:

“Schools are in a key position to identify mental health problems early and to provide a link to appropriate services. Every day more than 52 million students attend over 114,000 schools in the U.S. When combined with the six million adults working at those schools, almost one-fifth of the population passes through the Nation’s schools on any given weekday.”

The TeenScreen survey is billed as a suicide prevention tool, but according to former government investigator, Allen Jones, “Teen Screen is a nefarious effort to recruit our children into the quagmire of biological psychiatry.”

“The program employs dubious screening tools administered by non-professionals,” he states. “It is based on misleading science and diagnostic criteria that would be downright laughable if the stakes were not so high,” he adds.

“While the idea of screening kids for mental problems seems like a good idea, it ends up being nothing more than a Drugging Dragnet,” says Jim Gottstein, an attorney who represents clients harmed by the psychiatric industrial complex.

“The high rate at which we are drugging America’s children with psychotropics,” he says, “is a national disgrace.”

“This is junk science at it’s worst,” says Dr Jan Johnson, MD, “follow the money, the trail leads right back to the drug companies.”

Activist groups against TeenScreen have posted an online petition and plan to send it to federal, state and local lawmakers. The petition can also be used to educate people about TeenScreen because it conveys many of the facts about mental health screening and can be printed off and presented to school board members or legislators. Persons interested in signing the petition can click on the following link: http://www.petitiononline.com/TScreen/petition.html

As an additional bonus to Big Pharma, Bush set it up the overall scheme so that tax payers will foot the bill for the implementation of the TeenScreen program. On October 21, 2004, he signed a bill into law that authorized $82 million to be spent over 3 years for programs like TeenScreen.

From there, the way the scheme is set up, if a child is diagnosed with a mental illness and the family can not afford the expensive regiment of psychiatric drugs, tax payers will fund the purchase of the drugs as well through public health care programs like Medicaid.

The fact is, Bush and most of his Republican puppets in Congress, would not be in office today if not for the financial support of Big Pharma. Drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year sending lobbyists to Washington to call in their markers by getting industry-friendly legislation passed.

According to a 2004, report by the consumer group, Public Citizen, drug companies, HMOs, their trade associations and industry-backed advocacy groups spent nearly $141 million on lobbying in 2003, and deployed over 950 lobbyists to do their bidding on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

In 2003, the top 10 drug makers and trade associations spent $55.8 million on lobbying, accounting for 60% of the industry’s total lobbying expenditures. A record 24 companies and trade groups each spent $1 million, or more, on lobbying in 2002.

However, spending on lobbying is a drop in the bucket when compared with the $35.9 billion in profits recorded in 2003, by the 10 top companies. The industry soared past all other sectors, with profits five-and-a-half times greater than the median for industries represented in the Fortune 500.

And, the efforts to influence lawmakers have not been limited to lobbying. Since 1997, the top 25 drug companies with the highest lobbying expenditures, also gave $48.6 million in campaign contributions, with 80% going to Republicans.

According to concerned citizen Barbara Becker, “TeenScreen and similar projects are nothing more than a stealth trolling of the general population for drug consumers.”

“The roots of these projects,” she says, “grow straight from the drooling over additional excessive profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry, with the blessings of too many ever-grateful politicians who also profit from it through enormous pharmaceutical political contributions.”

In all fairness, it should be noted that Big Pharma has managed to cozy up with a few Democrats as well. For instance, Senator Joe Lieberman has been known to pal around with lobbyists representing drug companies that provides large contributions to his campaign.

In fact, according to Joe Conason in the July 17, 2006, New York Observer, Mr Liberman, “has literally been sleeping with one of their Washington representatives ever since his wife Hadassah joined Hill & Knowlton last year.”

“The legendary lobbying and P.R. firm,” Mr Conason explains, “hired her as a ‘senior counselor’ in its ‘health and pharmaceuticals practice.’

One of the firm’s clients is GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of flu vaccines, as well as many other drugs, and Mrs Lieberman joined the firm in March 2006.

“In April 2005,” according to Mr Conason, “Mr. Lieberman introduced a bill that would award an array of new government ‘incentives’ to companies like GSK to produce more vaccines’notably patent extensions on other products, at a cost of billions to governments and consumers.”

Mr Conason noted that the bill drew a critical commentary from by Mr Lieberman’s hometown newspaper, the New Haven Register, titled, ‘Lieberman Crafts Drug Company Perk.’

The newspaper described the bill as being even more generous to the industry than a similar proposal by Republicans. ‘The government can offer incentives and guarantees for needed public health measures,’ the Register said. ‘But it should not write a blank check, as these bills do,” it read, “to the pharmaceutical industry that has such a large cost to the public with what may be an uncertain or dubious return.’

In return for industry support, lawmakers have been very generous when doling out tax dollars to fund marketing schemes like TeenScreen. On September 21, 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced grants of over $9.7 million in funding for the implementation of the TeenScreen Program.

“The Columbia University TeenScreen Program,” the press release said, “provides early identification of mental health problems, such as depression, that can lead to suicide.”

TeenScreen uses a voice computer version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC ), and claims it can show signs of 30 disorders, according to an article by Reuters on October 13, 2003.

On March 2, 2004, TeenScreen’s Executive Director, Laurie Flynn, testified at a congressional hearing and said that in the screening process, “youth complete a 10-minute self-administered questionnaire that screens for social phobia, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicidality.”

The goal mentioned by Dr Paul, is obviously being reached because kids are “flunking” TeenScreen all over the country. According to Anne Yates, from Colorado, when the program was piloted at two sites in that state, at the high school, ‘a whopping 50% were found to be at risk of suicide.’

‘Figures from a homeless shelter,’ she reports, ‘were even more outrageous: 71% of the youth screened were found to have “mental disorders.”

‘You can bet psychiatric drugs were pushed at these kids,’ Ms Yates says, ‘TeenScreen is a feeder line to the drug companies.’

During an interview with award-winning investigative journalist, Kelly O’Meara, officials from the highly respected Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS), described suicide screening in schools as “a dangerous scheme that will heap even more coercive pressure on parents to medicate children with potentially dangerous side effects.”

Further, they told Ms O’Meara, “even the government’s own task force has concluded that mental health screening does little to prevent suicide.”

Critics say, TeenScreen asks teens about normal thoughts, feelings and emotions in a way that turns them into symptoms of mental illness. Concerned parent, Dennis McLoth says, “it looks like a way to make more young people dependent on prescription drugs earlier in life when all they really need is to deal with growing up, just like we all did before there was a drug for every ailment and new ailment to justify even more new drugs.”

Human rights groups contend children are being diagnosed with disorders based on nothing more than a list of behaviors. Kevin Hall, New England Director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, notes that ‘unlike medical illnesses that are found through scientific research and discovery, mental disorders are merely groups of symptoms that are voted into existence by American Psychiatric Association committees.’

A May 20, 2006, article on TeenScreen in the National Journal, includes a admission by Steven Sharfstein, President of the American Psychiatric Association, that states: “medical science has no biological or chemical tests that can determine whether a person is depressed, suicidal, schizophrenic, or afflicted with another mental problem. There is no laboratory test that establishes a specific diagnosis.”

Psychiatrist, Dr Nathaniel Lehrman says the claim that TeenScreen can reduce suicides is unsupported by any data. “It is impossible,” he explains, “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.”

Another complaint heard often from activists is the fact that TeenScreen labels children mentally ill without testing for possible underlying health problems such as nutritional deficiencies, allergies, or other physical illnesses, before initiating drug treatment.

And, the medications the children end up taking as a result of the screening are the most high-priced and dangerous psychotropic drugs on the market, and include selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs), like Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, and Effexor, and atypical antipsychotics, such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, Geodon, Seroquel, Clozaril, and Abilify, and ADHD stimulant drugs such as Adderall, Dexedrine and Ritalin.

In recent years, the use of these drugs with children has escalated. An examination of prescriptions by Medco Health Solutions in 2004, for 300,000 children ages 19 and younger, concluded that for the first time in history, spending on drugs for behavior problems with kids exceeded expenditures for any other medication category, including antibiotics.

According to Dr Barry Duncan, author of the book, “What’s Right With You,” more than 150 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants in 2003, with sales worth more than $14 billion. And he goes on to note that the “rates of depression have not changed for thirty years,” and “suicide rates, despite the millions taking antidepressants, have not reduced.”

In June 2005, the Washington Post reported that despite “a dramatic increase in treatment of psychiatric disorders during the past 10 years, there has been no decrease in the rate of suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults,” citing a study by researchers from Harvard Medical school and elsewhere, primarily funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

The study found that although people who attempt suicide were far more likely to be treated with antidepressants in 2001-03, compared to 1990-92, the rates of suicidal ideation, gestures and attempts remained basically unchanged, the Post said.

TeenScreen is being used as a vehicle to get kids on SSRIs, even though there has been a steady stream of warnings against treating kids with SSRIs for years, and even though the drugs are not approved for use with children. Back on June 10, 2003, British pubic health authorities issued a warning of a two-to three-fold increased risk of suicide in pediatric clinical trials during testing of SSRIs.

A week or so later, on June 18, 2003, Glaxo issued a warning to British physicians against the use of Paxil in children, acknowledging failure of clinical trials “to demonstrate efficacy in major depressive disorders and doubling the rate of reported adverse events – including suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts – compared to placebo.”

On August 22, 2003, Wyeth sent warnings to UK and US healthcare professionals stating: “In pediatric clinical trials, there were increased reports of hostility and especially in Major Depressive Disorder, suicide-related adverse events such as suicidal ideation and self-harm.”

On December 18, 2003, Eli Lilly issued two letters to British healthcare professionals, indicating that Prozac was not recommended for children – for any use.

During FDA hearings on SSRIs back in February 2004, researchers presented evidence showing SSRIs to be little or no more effective than placebos. Psychologist, David Antonuccio, from the University of Nevada Medical School, was part of a team that analyzed 12 studies and told the committee, ‘Our conclusions were that the advantages of the antidepressants in children were so small and so trivial as to be clinically insignificant.’

‘In order to evaluate the cost effectiveness of antidepressant use in children, the committee must consider the benefits, as well as the risks,’ Dr Antonuccio testified.

‘Clinically meaningful benefits have not been adequately demonstrated in depressed children,” he said, “therefore, no extra risk is warranted.’

‘An increased risk of suicidal behavior is certainly not justified by these minimal benefits,’ he warned. ‘Neither are the established increased risks of other commonly reported side effects, which include agitation, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems,’ he added.

On July 21, 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association, also reported that there was a significantly higher risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts during the first 9 days of treatment with SSRIs, and that children who were first starting treatment were 4 times more likely to think about suicide, and 38 times more likely to commit suicide and that children as young as five had committed suicide while taking these drugs.

In the fall of 2004, the FDA ordered drug makers to post a black box warning on SSRIs, the most serious warning a drug can carry. The problem is black box warnings do not stop doctors from prescribing SSRIs to children.

“Unfortunately,” said Senator Charles Grassley, who had been conducting oversight of the FDA from his position as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in response to the news of a black box warning on SSRIs, “the poor performance data for these drugs has been coupled with the very compelling and heart-wrenching testimony from parents and other public witnesses who identify the medications themselves as triggering tragic and unexpected suicides and suicidal behavior among users.”

“I understand,” he continued, “that the testimony yesterday even included discussions about patients who had not been suffering from depression, yet were prescribed these powerful drugs by physicians who may perhaps have been all too ready to medicate their patients.”

When reviewing studies that had previously been suppressed, the FDA found one trial on the SSRI, Paxil, with a “possibly suicide-related” risk of 6.5 percent, and a 5.4% risk of suicide attempts, compared to a 1.1% and zero, respectively in patients taking a placebo.

In fact, in 2004, Paxil maker, Glaxo, was sued by New York State Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, for committing fraud by hiding studies that “not only failed to show any benefit for the drug in children but demonstrated that children taking Paxil were more likely to become suicidal than those taking a placebo.”

In September 2005, British public health officials instructed doctors to never prescribe SSRIs to children without providing psychotherapy as well. Physicians were also told to never prescribe the drugs without trying other alternative drugs first, and to not prescribe Effexor or Paxil to children under any condition.

In addition to all the other problems with SSRIs, previously suppressed studies also show the drugs are addictive. In June 2003, Glaxo, removed labels that said Paxil was not habit-forming after thousands of patients claimed they had become addicted to the drug.

Experts warn that SSRIs can also cause children to become violent as well as suicidal. According to Dr Julian Whitaker, SSRIs cause akathisia, a mental and physical agitation that sparks self-destructive, violent behavior, and induce disassociative reactions that make patients who take the drugs insensitive to the consequences of their behavior. This is the type of drug, he says, that Eric Harris was taking when he killed his fellow students at Columbine.

Kip Kinkel was on Prozac, Dr Whitaker says, when he killed his parents and then went to his high school in Oregon, and killed two students and wounded 22 others, and says Joseph Wesbecker was also taking Prozac when he killed 7 people at a printing plant in Kentucky, before taking his own life.

In 2003, seventeen-year-old, Julie Woodward, took a test at North Penn High School, in North Wales, Pennsylvania, that said she was suffering from depression and two doctors convinced her parents, Tom and Kathy Woodward, to put her on Zoloft.

Julie’s parents say they watched as her behaviors got steadily worse as soon as she began taking the drug. On the third day, Julie was arguing with her mother, and all of a sudden pushed her mother down to the floor.

Everyone in the family was shocked because Julie had never been violent before. ‘It was an out-of-character act,’ Tom Woodward notes.

Over the next few days, the usually calm Julie, became extremely irritable, could not sit still, and began pacing incessantly. She also became reclusive, her parents recall.

Six days after she began taking Zoloft, Julie hanged herself in the family’s garage. Since their daughter’s suicide, Tom and Kathy have become activists and have work diligently in attempt to educate others parents about the dangers of SSRIs.

Sue Weibert, is an ardent activist against TeenScreen, and has been investigating the program for well over a year. She recently found that when a school enters into a contract to administer the TeenScreen survey, it must agree to screen a minimum of 200 children per season.

According to Ms Weibert, a recent study showed 33% of the kids screened test positive, and quoting a figure provided by Dr Shafer seven years ago in 1999, the study said the cost was about $37 per child per screening.

So all total, 200 times a rounded off fee of $35 would amount to $7,000 in tax dollars just for the screening. After that, the 33% who screen positive are sent for a “further assessment” at an average cost of $250 to parents.

Screening promoters claim that currently, only one out of every 3 children who are mentally ill receives treatment. “That being the case,” says Jan Eastgate, the International President of the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights, “with mass screening already in play, if we do not act to prevent this, we can very shortly expect to have 30 million American children prescribed mind-altering drugs.”

Parents are beginning to strike back against schools when their children are screened without their consent. Last year, an Indiana high school was sued for subjecting 15-year-old student to mental health testing with TeenScreen and diagnosing the teen with two mental illnesses, without her parents’ knowledge or consent.

A Massachusetts department of education investigation recently determined that a counselor at the Thomas Hamilton Primary School violated federal law in April 2005, when a student, who was enrolled in a special education class due to a speech delay, was screened for ADHD, without parental consent.

The investigation followed complaints by the mother that the counselor had pressured her to put her daughter on drugs for 3 years. The mother said she did not give consent for a mental evaluation and pulled her children out of the school because of the incident.

Wilmette, Illinois, attorney, S Randolph Kretchmar, defends patients who are violated by the psychiatric industry, and says he is dead against drugging and labeling children with mental health disorders. ‘The great crime of psychiatry and the pushers of psychiatric drugs,’ he advises, ‘is that they have purposely confused us to sell their products.’

‘What the drugs do is disable people,’ he says, ‘it’s just that simple.’

‘They may disable people from behaving badly,’ he explains, ‘but they also disable people in other ways, generally, neurologically.’

He points out that a slow reader or difficult middle-schooler is no threat to public safety. ‘When it becomes popular,’ he says, ‘to neurologically disable children from being disagreeable to their teachers and their parents, we descend into some horrific barbarism, and sacrifice the future of the human race.’

This month, the CCHR issued a report titled, “The Side Effects of Common Psychiatric Drugs,” that explains the various adverse effects of psychiatric drugs and defines the complex medical terms that often makes it hard for readers to understand the side effects. The report also includes the recent FDA warnings about specific drugs, as well as information, they say drug makers have kept hidden for years. Copies of the report can be obtained from their web site.

TeenScreen Top Pusher – Laurie Flynn

Evelyn Pringle June 7, 2005

On January 1, 2001, Laurie Flynn joined the Columbia University, and became the top dog for marketing the TeenScreen program which is nothing but a clever tool invented to recruit children in public schools as customers for the pharmaceutical companies.

The truth about programs like TeenScreen and the pills Flynn is pushing was uncovered during an investigation by the US Preventive Services Task Force. A report by the Task Force released in May of 2004, determined:

(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.

Prior to joining Columbia, Flynn served as the executive director of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) for 16 years. NAMI bills itself as “a grassroots organization of individuals with brain disorders and their family members.”

In reality, NAMI is the pharmaceutical industry’s number one front group dedicated solely to promoting and selling as many pills as humanly possible. Which means before she hooked up with TeenScreen, Flynn was the nation’s top pill pusher for 16 years.

The pharmaceutical industry has long funneled money to groups like NAMI which become conduits for spreading industry-friendly information and funding marketing schemes.

Let there be no doubt about who paid Flynn’s salary at NAMI for 16 years. According to internal NAMI documents obtained by Mother Jones Magazine, between 1996 and mid-1999, 18 drug firms gave NAMI a total of $11.72 million. The companies include Janssen ($2.08 million), Novartis ($1.87 million), Pfizer ($1.3 million), Abbott Laboratories ($1.24 million), Wyeth-Ayerst ($658,000), and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($613,505).

NAMI’s top donor was Eli Lilly. The company gave $2.87 million during that period. In 1999 alone, Lilly delivered $1.1 million in quarterly installments, with most of it going to help fund NAMI’s “Campaign to End Discrimination” against the mentally ill.

Let me explain the meaning of “Campaign to End Discrimination.” This was a marketing scheme aimed at finding a way to force more insurance companies and government health care programs to quit “discriminating” against pharma’s mentally ill customers and pay for all the pills they want to sell to the steady stream of customers they plan to recruit with mass mental health screening projects like TeenScreen.

According to Dr Peter Breggin, psychiatrist and founder of The International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP), “These groups hold national meetings that bring together drug advocates to talk directly to consumers. They also put out newsletters and other information that praise medications. Sometimes they actively suppress viewpoints that are critical of drugs – for example, by discouraging the media from airing opposing viewpoints.”

On March 2, 2004, Flynn took her TeenScreen marketing scam to congress and testified at the hearing, Testimony Suicide Prevention and Youth: Saving Lives Hearing. She said: In 2003, we were able to screen approximately 14,200 teens at these sites; among those students, we were able to identify approximately 3,500 youth with mental health problems and link them with treatment. This year, we believe we will be able to identify close to 10,000 teens in need, a 300 percent increase over last year.

Most screening programs take place in schools, Flynn said, but the program can also be implemented in residential treatment facilities, foster care settings, clinics, shelters, drop-in centers and other settings that serve youth.

Flynn said TeenScreen’s goal is “to ensure that every teenager receives a mental health check-up before leaving high school.” That’s right, she has a goal to get em hooked before they ever leave school.

TeenScreen’s promotional material claim the project is not funded by the government or drug companies. Well then somebody better arrest Flynn for lying under oath when she testified about how her fellow pill-pushing buddy, Mike Hogan, got five counties in Ohio to cough up $15,000 a piece to set up TeemScreen.

In Ohio, Flynn told members of Congress: “we have been fortunate to work with Mike Hogan, PhD, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, Chair of the President’s New Freedom Mental Health Commission, and a member of our National Advisory Council. In February 2002, Commissioner Hogan initiated a statewide TeenScreen effort by soliciting five county mental health boards to be part of a pilot program. Over the next 10 to 18 months, the development of these screening sites was supported by staff at the TeenScreen Program as well as through a grant of $15,000 from the Department of Mental Health to each mental health board who is participating in the pilot program (Cuyahoga County, Clermont County, Butler County, Stark County, and Wayne/Holmes Counties).”

Now why would I ever infer that Hogan is a pusher? Well for starters, on May 23, 2005, PRNewswire announced that a documentary titled, Out of the Shadow, which illuminates the national plight of schizophrenia is going to be screened at a meeting of 1000 professionals. The Press release said that the film would be introduced by Dr. Michael Hogan, and that the screening was supported by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a company that currently markets the same medications that Hogan and TeenScreen are pushing.

The flood of tax dollar being funneled into TeenScreen is not limited to Ohio. According to an investigation conducted by record’s researcher, Ken Kramer, the Florida Office of Drug Control, provided a $45,000 grant to Flagler Palm Coast High School that went for TeenScreen where the survey was used in 9th grade health class.

And according to Kramer’s investigation, the Office of Drug Control provided another $45,000 grant to a drug treatment center that went for TeenScreen.

Additionally, on November 17, 2004, Officials at the University of South Florida announced receiving $98,641 in funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Florida Suicide Prevention Pilot Project to expand the TeenScreen Program efforts in the Tampa Bay area.

Flynn told Congress that “The need for increased availability of youth mental health screening is evidenced by the fact that close to 750,000 teens are depressed at any one time, and an estimated 7-12 million youth suffer from mental illness. While treatments are available for these severely disabling disorders, sadly, most children do not receive the treatment they need.” Translation: “treatment” means pills.

Flynn’s testimony is evidence that pharma believes it can recruit 7-12 million school kids with this profiteering scheme. Do the math and figure out how much they will make once TeenScreen has this group of consumers running to the drug store each and every month.

Phyllis Schlafly, the author of “No Child Left Unmedicated,” says the marketing scheme is working. “Columbia University pilot project for screening students, called TeenScreen, resulted in one-third of the subjects being flagged as “positive” for mental health problems. Half of those were turned over for mental health treatment. If that is a preview of what would happen when 52 million public school students are screened, it would mean hanging a libelous label on 17 million American children and forcibly putting 8 million children into the hands of the psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry.”

These days one of Flynn’s main duties is to keep track of teen suicides all over the country and then write letters to the editors of local newspapers to take advantage of vulnerable communities in mourning by faking compassion to get her TeenScreen marketing scheme into local public schools.

Here is Flynn hawking her wares in the Sacramento Bee on March 28, 2003, in response to an article about a teen suicide, describing how she wants to screen every teen in the country, claiming TeenScreen could “save a young person’s life.”

“Columbia University recently launched a national initiative to screen every teen in America for depression and suicide risk. Through its TeenScreen program, Columbia provides communities with free consultation, training, technical assistance, and screening and assessment tools. TeenScreen has been developed, implemented and evaluated over the past decade, and is one of the most effective systems available for identifying youth at risk for depression and suicide risk.”

“This method of detection could save a young person’s life,” Flynn wrote.

Here she is on May 14, 2003, in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, throwing around bogus statistics that she obviously pulls out of her hat: “Almost one in 10 American teenagers suffers from a mental illness, and the failure to detect and treat it can have deadly consequences. Ninety percent of youth who commit suicide, the third-leading cause of death among teenagers, have depression or another diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of death. Research has shown that the majority of those identified as suffering from depression or suicide risk are not known by parents, school personnel or other adults to have a significant problem.”

“No family is immune from the potential horror of suicide. I strongly encourage parents, health professionals, educators and others to support our initiative for the routine screening of teens to help prevent the terrible tragedy of suicide.”

Here Flynn is in on June 16, 2003, in Missouri in the St Louis Post-Dispatch peddling TeenScreen with the we want to save your kids ‘for free” line. “TeenScreen provides communities with the tools and training necessary to identify youth at risk for suicide and/or suffering from unidentified and untreated mental illness. Columbia provide s communities with consultation, training, technical assistance, and screening and assessment tools free of charge.”

Flynn did Dallas on October 31, 2004, in the Dallas Morning News and played on the guilt factor by claiming teens kill themselves due to a failure (by their parents I assume), to detect and treat their mental illness. “Almost one in 10 American teenagers suffers from a mental illness, and the failure to detect and treat it can have deadly consequences. Research has shown that 90 percent of those who commit suicide suffered from a diagnosable and treatable mental illness.”

On December 9, 2004, she cranked up the guild factor in the Boston Herald by claiming the suicide could have been prevented. “Young people cutting their own lives short is always shocking, but unfortunately, it occurs more often than people think. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens today, but few are aware how many teen suicides could have been prevented through programs that screen for adolescent depression and suicide risk.”

Flynn bragged to the Congress about her associations with government officials in Florida and said, “TeenScreen Program staff has been working with Governor Jeb Bush to help achieve his goal of reducing suicides in the state. We have specifically collaborated with Jim McDonough, Director of the Office of Drug Control and the state Suicide Prevention Talk Force. In partnership with the University of South Florida we are piloting district wide mental health screening of 9th graders in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.”

To her credit, Flynn does come across as very professional and caring in her letters to the editors and while testifying before congress.

However, this is how she really talks with her fellow marketing buddies. In an email obtained by Ken Kramer to Jim McDonough, Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, from Flynn, she wrote:

“I’m looking for a horse to ride in here! … I need to get some kids screened — if the schools are a road block we are interested in community organizations. Next week we are talking with the Boys and Girls Club in Pinellas. … I also think we should see if local agencies or businesses could be engaged in “community screenings.”

In my book, trying to capitalize off the pain and guilt of parents and communities who have just suffered the loss of child to suicide, makes Flynn a despicable human being. I propose that local school boards tell her to take her TeenScreen survey and ride out of town on the same horse she rode in on.

Tracking the American Epidemic of Mental Illness – Part II

Evelyn Pringle June 7, 2010

Tax dollars are being used to fuel the American epidemic of mental illness by promoting the preemptive drugging of persons supposedly at risk of developing mental disorders, to the great benefit of the pharmaceutical industry.

In March 2010, the US Department of Health & Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration Center for Mental Health Services announced $16.5 million in funding for “Mental Health Transformation Grants,” one of SAMHSA’s services grant programs.

“In order to complement but not duplicate the efforts of other CMHS programs, FY 2010 funding for MHTG will focus on services for adults with or at-risk for serious mental illnesses,” the agency noted.

Applications were required to implement evidence-based or best practices that would create or expand capacity to address one or more of five Strategic Initiatives, including: “Prevent mental illness through outreach, screening, and early interventions for adults with early signs of mental illness or who are at risk, and promote wellness through holistic treatment approaches.”

An evidence-based practice, or EBP, refers to approaches to prevention or treatment that are validated by some form of documented research evidence. As an example of a practice that could be implemented, SAMHSA listed under “Prevention and Wellness: Early Intervention,” the “Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP),” along with a link to its website http://www.changemymind.org/.

EDIPPP is a national program replicating the “Portland Identification and Early Referral,” or “PIER,” a treatment research program at the Main Medical Center, in Portland, Maine.

On a webpage for PIER on the Center’s Website, under “Project Overview,” it states: “The goals are to improve outcomes and prevent the onset of the psychotic phase of illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, and Schizophrenia.”

“This is the first program in the United States to identify the entire population of at risk young persons and offer them treatment,” PIER said in a September 26, 2005 press release.

EDIPPP was funded through a $14.4 million million grant for the “National Demonstration of Early Detection, Intervention and Prevention of Psychosis in Adolescents and Young Adults,” from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and is “designed to prevent psychosis in teens and young adults,” according to an April 10, 2007, announcement on RWJF’s launch of the program.

“The national program is expanding PIER’s success during the past seven years in identifying and treating young people experiencing subtle and early symptoms that herald the onset of serious mental illness,” a November 2007 report in Behavioral Healthcare, by Dr James Maier, a research psychiatrist with PIER, notes.

EDIPPP works with people between the ages of 12 and 25, with an average age of persons entering the program between 15 and 16.

“Widespread dissemination of this early intervention model throughout the United States offers tremendous hope and optimism for combating some of the most devastating and costly illnesses that can afflict young people and their families,” Maier claims.

The RWJF grant set up additional EDIPPP sites in Sacramento, California; Salem, Oregon; Ypsilanti, Michigan; and Glen Oaks, New York. A site in Albuquerque, New Mexico was added in 2008.

RWJF also funds a booklet for professionals, on how to prevent mental illness with early detection titled, “Recognizing and Helping Young People at Risk for Psychosis: A Professional’s Guide,” which can be downloaded free off the internet.

From the start, PIER has always been primarily funded by RWJF, according to its website. However, on October 13, 2003, Mental Health Weekly reported that the program had received a $3.9 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, and a parallel $2 million grant from the Center for Mental Health Services intended for a related program in early identification of non-psychotic disabilities.

In Portland, young people typically are referred to PIER by high school guidance counselors, pediatricians, or other clinicians who attended presentations about PIER’s work, visited the PIER Website (http://www.preventmentalillness.org), and are familiar with the early warning symptoms that suggest the onset of a psychotic illness, according to the report in Behavioral Healthcare.

Mental Illness According to PIER

In a fact sheet posted to “Dispel the Myths,” the PIER website claims that, “Mental disorders are as easy to diagnose as asthma, diabetes, and cancer.”

“Treatments are effective 60%-80% of the time, success rates that meet or exceed success rates for cutting edge treatment for heart disease,” the sheet states.

“In many cases, PIER does use medications,” the Websites says. “We believe that some of the newer medications effectively improve thinking and combat early symptoms.”

“Research suggests these medications may have a protective effect against changes in the brain that cause mental illness,” it reports.

Under costs, it reads: “For now, services provided by PIER staff are supported by grants. However, if certain medications, medical tests, or neurological assessments are ordered, there will be a charge.”

The PIER program was founded in 2000, by Dr William McFarlane, and after 10 years in operation, on May 28, 2010, the ChangeMyMind website listed only two “case studies and impact stories that illustrate the effectiveness of the Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program.”

Medicated for Life

Virtually every person entering the PIER program is prescribed antipsychotics, such as Risperdal or Invega, marketed by Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These prescriptions are off-label because antipsychotics are not FDA approved to “prevent” mental illness in any age group.

An August 2008 article, by Charles Schmidt in Discover Magazine, highlighted the PIER program with a byline that stated: “A new mix of therapy and medication may stave off psychosis among teens at risk.”

Schmidt discussed the case of Camila (not her real name), who entered the program in September 2001, when she was 14. “Camila and her family stuck with PIER for the four-year treatment program, which ended formally in 2005, and still keep in touch with counselors there,” he reports.

However, “Camila’s health still hinges on antipsychotic medication,” Schmidt says. “In the summer of 2007 she went off the drugs for a spell and her strange feelings returned.”

He notes that her reliance on antipsychotics raises issues. “On the one hand, it shows that the threat of psychosis hasn’t really been removed, it’s just been held in check.”

“What we hope is that the benefits of treatment will be lifelong,” McFarlane says in the article. “We don’t have any empirical evidence to support that yet, but what we’ve seen is that young people who still haven’t converted to psychosis after about three years of our treatment don’t seem to be at much risk.”

While he suggests that over time, some patients may be able to go off medications, McFarlane acknowledges that PIER hasn’t developed a plan for managing that process, Schmidt reports.

“As to when or if they can go off medication, that’s hard to say,” he told Schmidt. “I think many of our patients don’t feel a need to stop; they certainly don’t feel oppressed by it. At a certain point it becomes a personal choice.”

A fortune can be made from these life-long antipsychotic customers. In April 2010, the price for one box of Invega, at a middle dose, was $1,373 at DrugStore.com. Risperdal went for $788 per 90 pills. The cost was $1,395 for 100 tablets of Abilify. Seroquel cost $997 per 100. One-hundred capsules of Geodon sold for $918 and Zyprexa cost $1,523 for a hundred 10mg pills.

In 2003, McFarlane told Mental Health Weekly that with about 3% of the population at risk for a serious mental illness, Greater Portland could expect about 75 young people to develop a disorder each year.

RWJF Front Group

The founder of RWJF, Robert Wood Johnson, was chairman of Johnson & Johnson for over 30 years, from 1932 to 1963, as a member of the drug maker’s founding family. Throughout the years, the majority of the Foundation’s money has come from investments in J&J stock. RWJF’s board of trustees has always been stacked with the drug company’s executives. For instance, current and past trustees have held positions at J&J such as President, CEO, Vice President, Chairman of the Board, and Treasurer, and have served along side another family heir on the board, Robert Wood Johnson IV.

RWJF is listed in a Medicaid fraud lawsuit, filed against J&J by whistleblower, Allen Jones, a former federal fraud investigator, and joined by the Texas attorney general, as providing funding for illegal marketing schemes to increase the off-label sales of Risperdal, including funding the development of the “Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP),” which required doctors to prescribe the newest, most expensive antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and ADHD drugs to patients covered by public programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, who were diagnosed with mental disorders, and a nearly identical set of child drugging guidelines known as the “Texas Children’s Medication Algorithm Project (CMAP).”

In addition to Risperdal and Invega, J&J also markets the ADHD drug Concerta, and Topamax, an anticonvulsant.

A May 11, 2005, report by RWJF on the results of the funding of TMAP grants totaling $2,389,581 to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and a grant of $353,747 to the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, describes the supposed “Problem,” that led to the creation of the TMAP drugging guidelines as:

“In the 1980’s and 1990’s, as pharmaceutical companies began producing new and more efficacious medications to treat people with serious mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, the question arose of how to choose the most appropriate treatment options. Concerns about wide variation in prescribing practices by physicians and complaints from consumer advocates about the negative consequences of this variation spurred the creation of evidence-based guidelines and medication treatment algorithms.”

The “Contacts” for the grants listed in the report, were Dr A John Rush, for the University, and Dr Steven Shon for the state of Texas. Shon was fired in October 2006, after the Texas attorney general determined that J&J had improperly influenced him to make Risperdal a preferred drug on TMAP. In 2008, Rush was added to a list of psychiatric academics who failed to disclose all the payments they received from drug companies, by Senator Charles Grassley, as part of an investigation conducted on behalf of the US Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare spending.

As a main component of the off-label marketing schemes, the lawsuits against the antipsychotic makers allege that the drug companies “seeded” the medical literature with reports and papers purporting to be written by “experts” when they were actually ghostwritten with the names of experts attached after the fact.

In its report on the TMAP grant results, RWJF boasts that: “More than 50 articles on the Texas Medication Algorithm Project have appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Psychiatry Research, Managed Care, Health Services Research, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and other peer-reviewed journals.”

“Over the next two years, Project Directors Rush and Shon and their colleagues plan to publish additional articles on other areas of interest,” the report said.

On August 18, 2008, a Dallas Morning News headline read: “Conflict of interest fears halt children’s mental health project,” in reference to the Children’s Medication Algorithm Project. “A state mental health plan naming the preferred psychiatric drugs for children has been quietly put on hold over fears drug companies may have given researchers consulting contracts, speakers fees or other perks to help get their products on the list,” the News wrote.

To date, four of the five atypical makers have settled fraud charges involving the illegal off-label marketing of antipsychotics, including for use with children. Eli Lilly paid $1.4 billion for Zyprexa, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s fine was $515 million for Abilify, Pfizer paid $301 for Geodon, and AstraZeneca just forked out $520 million for Seroquel.

But the fines are merely chocked up to the cost of doing business. For instance, although AstraZeneca paid a whopping $520 million fine, Seroquel had sales of $4.9 billion in 2009, with more than half coming from the US. Overall, antipsychotics were the top-earning class of drugs in the US, in both 2008 and 2009, with sales of $14.6 billion in 2009, according to IMS Health.

J&J is the only atypical maker that has not settled the off-label marketing charges against it – yet. However, two units of J&J “will pay more than $81 million to resolve criminal and civil claims over illegal promotion of the epilepsy drug Topamax,” according to Bloomberg news on April 29, 2010.

Also, over the past 2 months, J&J’s McNeil division has recalled over 40 varieties of child and baby medications after the FDA found massive safety and manufacturing violations at a plant in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, including formulations of Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl. The FDA also found problems with “strength, quality and purity.”

The FDA’s inspection report notes that J&J received about 46 consumer complaints “regarding foreign materials, black or dark specks [in their drugs] from June 2009 to April 2010.” J&J had knowledge of problems since May 2009, which means it was allowing children and infants to ingest potentially poisonous drugs for a year before the product recall took place.

Time Magazine as Promoter

On June 22, 2009, the RWJF website posted a link to download the full text of an article in Time Magazine, by John Cloud titled, “Staying Sane May Be Easier Than You Think,” who reported: “The most exciting research in mental health today involves not how to treat mental illness but how to prevent it in the first place.”

“In fact,” Cloud said, “many mental illnesses — even those like schizophrenia that have demonstrable genetic origins — can be stopped or at least contained before they start.”

“This isn’t wishful thinking but hard science,” he claimed.

The article discussed a report by the National Academics, “an organization of experts who investigate science for the Federal Government,” nearly two years in the making, “on how to prevent mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.” A quick check found one of the sponsors of the National Academies to be RWJF.

“The report concludes that pre-empting such disorders requires two kinds of interventions,” Cloud said, “first, because genes play so important a role in mental illness, we need to ensure that close relatives (particularly children) of those with mental disorders have access to rigorous screening programs.”

“Second,” he noted, “we must offer treatment to people who have already shown symptoms of illness (say, a tendency to brood and see the world without optimism) but don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for a full-scale mental illness (in this case, depression).”

“Some prevention programs even prescribe psychiatric medications, including antipsychotics and antidepressants, to people who aren’t technically psychotic or depressed,” Time reported.

“This is a big concern,” Joseph Rogers, founder of the Philadelphia-based National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse told Cloud. “Because, gee, if you miss, you can really do more harm with some of these drugs than good.”

“But those who contributed to the National Academies report say preventing the suffering of people with mental illness is worth the risk of some false positives, partly because of the enormous cost of treating mental illness after it’s struck,” Cloud reported.

The article profiled PIER and McFarlane, who was described as “one of the world’s top authorities on preventing mental illness.”

According to Time, the “National Institute of Mental Health is funding a trial of McFarlane’s work, and while he is still writing up his data for publication, his anecdotal results are promising: most of the kids are so far avoiding a first psychotic episode.”

Preemptive Drugging Unsupported

In a 2008 paper titled, Atypical Antipsychotic Agents For the Schizophrenia Prodrome: Not a Clear First Choice,” published in the “International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine,” Dr Stefan Kruszewski, a psychiatrist, and Dr Richard Paczynski, a neurologist, both from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, explain that, “Pharmacologic intervention at the earliest stages of suspected psychotic illness is an intuitively appealing concept and a logical extension of the current approach to many other diseases of the central nervous system.”

“However,” they report, “a critical analysis of the results of structured clinical investigations which have explored the use of ATAPs for new-onset psychotic symptoms raises safety concerns and does not support pre-medication in this setting as a preventive strategy.”

“Over the past several years,” the paper states, “a voice has emerged in the international psychiatric community recommending early prescription of the atypical antipsychotic agents (ATAPs) for adolescents and young adults who appear to show signs consistent with a schizophrenia prodrome. Early use is predicated on the possibility that ATAPs may prevent progression to full-blown psychotic illness in this high-risk population. “

“This trend has been encouraged despite a paucity of data which clearly support the effectiveness of these agents for this indication, and despite evidence of adverse side effects including,” the authors note.

These circumstances prompted their literature review, “focusing on the five published studies that have explicitly addressed the preventative efficacy of the most widely prescribed ATAPs in structured (i.e., non-anecdotal) clinical settings.”

In the summary and conclusion section of the paper, the authors report that the results from the available controlled trials reviewed are in line with several of the conclusions of the naturalistic study by Cornblatt et al. “That is, early prescription of ATAPs to adolescents and young adults seeking medical attention for prodromal psychotic symptoms is associated with high rates of medication non-adherence.”

“Additionally,” they say, “the introduction of ATAPs was not associated with reduction in the rate of conversion to formal psychosis beyond that explainable by chance and/or the introduction of bias secondary to baseline imbalances, inadequate blinding or even differential psychosocial supports.”

“We suggest caution in making any assumptions that justify changes in prescription-writing behavior when it involves patients who are at high risk for developing long-term psychotic illnesses but have never demonstrated sustained psychosis (psychotic illness by DSM-IV criteria),” Kruszewski and Paczynski advise.

“This would include but is not limited to persons with suspected schizophrenia prodrome,” they add.

“Even in the hands of experienced investigators using detailed screening protocols in controlled settings, only one-quarter to one-third of high-risk patients converted to full-blown psychosis,” they report.

“Consequently,” they warn, “if early use of ATAPs continues as a quasi-standard of care for new-onset psychotic symptoms, a large majority of these often young individuals will be exposed unnecessarily to poorly defined but likely substantial risks, including but not limited to obesity, hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndrome, increased rates of type II diabetes mellitus and extrapyramidal syndromes, both acute and chronic.”

“Considerations of safety must come first when the preventative efficacy of these agents remains so poorly defined,” they conclude.

(This series is sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology http://icspponline.org/index.html)

Mental Illness Screening In US Schools

Evelyn Pringle July 18, 2006

The TeenScreen survey is being used to screen students for mental illness in the nation’s public school system reportedly to prevent suicide. However, critics adamantly disagree with its stated purpose and say its a marketing scheme invented by the pharmaceutical industry to recruit prescription drug customers.

The goal is to promote the patently false idea that we have a nation of children with undiagnosed mental disorders crying out for treatment, according to Republican Texas Congressman and physician, Ron Paul, in “Forcing Kids Into a Mental Health Ghetto.”

Implementing such a blatant marketing scheme in schools would be impossible without a lot of help from key politicians and policy makers. But when it comes to gaining influence over government officials, Big Pharma knows when and where to be generous. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in his 2 bids for the presidency, George W Bush, has been the number one recipient of campaign donations from the industry.

In addition, the consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, has determined that since 1997, the top 25 drug companies gave Republicans 80% of their $48.6 million in campaign contributions.

An analysis of confidential 2002 budget documents from the industry’s giant trade group, Pharma, obtained by the New York Times, shows the trade group spent close $60 million on advocacy and related activities at the federal level, which turned out to be $45 million more than Pharma disclosed in federal filings, the Times said.

In 2001-2002, the analysis showed that Pharma lavished $3.4 million on Republicans, and gave only $161,300 to Democrats.

In return for the millions owed, lawmakers have been doling out tax dollars left and right to fund screening programs like TeenScreen. On September 21, 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced grants of over $9.7 million in funding for the implementation of the TeenScreen Program.

“The Columbia University TeenScreen Program,” SAMHSA’s press release said, “provides early identification of mental health problems, such as depression, that can lead to suicide.”

TeenScreen claims its voice computer version of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC ), can show signs of 30 disorders, according to an article by Reuters on October 13, 2003.

To get the Teenscreen up and running in schools nationwide, Big Pharma has funneled millions of dollars to front groups like the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), who in turn dispatch members of their groups to help promote and implement TeenScreen in their communities.

And its no secret that NAMI gets its funding drug makers, the group’s corporate sponsors are listed as: Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline Janssen Pharmaceutica, Magellan Health Services, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Organon, PacifiCare Behavioral Health, Pfizer Foundation, Pfizer, PhRMA, WellPoint Health Networks, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

According to the well-known author and certified expert on psychiatric drugs, psychiatrist Dr Peter Breggin, these front groups use national conventions to bring together advocates who promote drug treatment. “They also put out newsletters,” he notes, “and other information that praise medications.”

And just as Dr Breggin predicted, on January 19, 2005, NAMI put out a newsletter on TeenScreen and treatment for mental illnesses, with a headline that said: “Mental Health Screening Will Save Lives.”

“Research shows,” it read, “that early identification and intervention leads to improved outcomes and may lessen long-term disability.”

“Sometimes,” Dr Breggin says, “they actively suppress viewpoints that are critical of drugs, for example, by discouraging the media from airing opposing viewpoints.”

As for this tactic, at one NAMI national convention, TeenScreen official, Leslie McGuire, recruited members to “suppress viewpoints” by passing around a list to get signatures from people who would respond if there was a community uprising against TeenScreen, by writing letters to the editor in local newspapers and attending school board meetings.

Ms McGuire also recruited NAMI members to basically walk students through the entire marketing scheme from start to finish. She told members to first find ways to convince parents to sign a consent form for the screening, then check out the family’s health insurance, and then go so far as to deliver a child to a shrink’s doorstep.

“Sometimes,” she told members, “we have to call the insurance company for them and find out, ya’ know, who can they go to, how do you get an appointment, sometimes you have to pick them up and bring them to the appointment.”

“It’s sorta’ a continuum there,” she said, “the goal is to get them to that first appointment.”

Although NAMI is the most recognizable front group, TeenScreen gets the same type of support from other groups, such as the, “Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance,” which reports financial backing from drug companies equal to 53% of all revenue. According to its 2001 annual report, companies that donated between $150,000 and $499,999, to this group include Abbot, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Glaxo-Kline, and Janssen, and the other major drug makers donated a lesser amount.

TeenScreen also has a slew of officials from front groups sitting on its advisor board which, just as intended, makes it difficult to explain the funneling process of money to TeenScreen because it requires an understanding of the complicated network of officials intertwined between the front groups and the drug companies.

For instance, TeenScreen advisory board member, Jeanne Robertson, is the Vice President of the group known as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), which receives its funding from the major drug companies.

Another TeenScreen board member, Robert Nau, is Vice Chairman of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), with board members that include Cathryn Clary from Pfizer, Harold Shlevin from Sovay Pharmaceuticals, David Norton from Johnson and Johnson, and Alan Lipschitz from GlaxoSmithKline.

Along with a board stacked with drug company representatives, the AFSP receives most of its operational funding from drug companies.

Columbia University psychiatrist, Dr David Shaffer, inventor of the TeenScreen survey, is a past president of AFSP, and is currently a member of its board of directors, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Council and Research Grants Committee.

Dr Shafer has financial ties to Big Pharma branching out in all directions. He has served as an expert witness on behalf of drug companies in several lawsuits, and has earned money as a consultant and public speaker from about every psychiatric drug maker.

According to a December 11, 2003, New York Times article, Shaffer at the request of Pfizer, the maker of Nardil, Sinequan, Zoloft (depression) and Navane (schizophrenia) attempted to block the British findings, sending a letter to the British drug agency saying that there was insufficient data to restrict the use of the drugs in adolescents.

A year later, on December 5, 2004, the New York Post, speaking about TeenScreen and Dr Shafer, said in an articled titled: Pill Pusher in His Suicide Screening Program. “A Columbia University psychiatrist who has advised drug companies and calls himself a “big proponent” of antidepressants wants to expand his suicide-screening program to thousands of kids in public and parochial high schools,” the Post wrote.

Several Columbia University departments have been involved in drug pushing schemes with Big Pharma over the years. In 1999, the New York Post revealed that Columbia University’s Office of Clinical Trials was receiving about $10 million a year for testing new drugs, with much of it granted to the Columbia Psychiatric Institute to conduct the trials.

At the same time, the Post said, the director of the institute, Dr Jack Gorman, was being paid $140,000 a year by drug makers to travel around the country and promote their drugs and also received nearly $12,000 from a drug company to lead a study on panic disorders.

For the past several years, records researcher and investigator, Ken Kramer, has spent much of his time following the money trails leading to and from TeenScreen, and the behind the scenes involvement of government officials and policymakers, on the federal, state and local levels, in promoting and implementing the TeenScreen program.

For instance, Michael Hogan, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, served as Chairman of the Bush appointed New Freedom Commission (NFC), from which the recommendation to screen all Americans for mental illness originated to begin with.

Mr Hogan serves as a hub for the network of federal and state officials and policy makers involved in promoting TeenScreen. He is a member of TeenScreen’s advisory council, and a past president of another Big Pharma-backed front group, known as the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

Being chairman of the NFC and recommending mental health screening for all Americans made Mr Hogan a hero among drug makers. On November 11, 2004, Lilly, announced the winners of the year’s “Helping Move Lives Forward Reintegration Awards,” and a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mr Hogan.

Lilly commended Mr Hogan “for his stewardship and advocacy in the implementation of the New Freedom Commission Report’s recommendations,” and for his “lifelong commitment to enhancing services for people with mental illnesses.”

“The Reintegration Awards program,” Lilly noted, “underscores the powerful and collaborative roles of consumer involvement, treatment team support and access to effective medication in helping people move their lives forward.”

In granting the award, it was noted that Mr Hogan had given over 75 presentations at conferences since he became chairman of the NFC. However, a fact not mentioned was that every event where he gave a presentation was sponsored by a drug company and each group that organized the event received money from Big Pharma to pay the key note speaker, according to records researcher, Sue Weibert, who has been investigating the TeenScreen program for going on 2 years.

Mr Hogan and TeenScreen’s Executive Director, Laurie Flynn, have been at this drug pushing business a long time. Back in 1999, while Ms Flynn was the director of NAMI, before being promoted to TeenScreen, she and Mr Hogan took part in the creation of a guide for the treatment of Schizophrenia.

In this process, “experts” decide which specific drugs will be on a list for doctors to use as a first line of treatment for Schizophrenia. Because all the major companies want their newest and most expensive drugs on the list, this project was funded by unrestricted educational grants from Eli Lilly, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Ortho-McNeil, Pfizer, and Zeneca Pharmaceuticals.

With Mr Hogan behind the program in Ohio, according to Ms Weibert, TeenScreen has 68 sites in Ohio, more than double the number of any other state. The Ohio budget proposal for the years 2006 and 2007, included a total of $140,000 for TeenScreen.

Ms Weibert also discovered that while Mr Hogan was chairing the NFC, he had Ms Flynn give a presentation on TeenScreen to a NFC committee in Arlington, Virginia and subsequently, when the NFC issued its final report, TeenScreen ended up being the recommended program for schools in all 50 states.

Mr Hogan is also a darling with other front groups. According to the 2003 Annual Report of the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), he was a key-note speaker at the group’s 2003 Annual Convention.

TeenScreen lists NMHA as a supporter. NMAH claims that it wants to raise awareness that mental illnesses are common and treatable and to ensure that those most at-risk receive treatment. It seeks to increase the number of Americans who receive treatment and to improve the manner in which mental illnesses are detected and treated.

The message on the bottom of the NMAH website, says their campaign is underwritten by unrestricted educational grants from Eli Lilly, Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Forest Pharmaceuticals, Organon, Pfizer, and Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals.

Lilly has been funneling money to the NMHA to promote mental illness screening for over a decade. In 1993, Lilly paid for a campaign intended to reach 93% of all American adults. According to the Wall Street Journal on April 15, 1993, Lilly paid between $3 and $4 million for a 3-week promotional blitz. The goal was to encourage the public to seek professional help for depression.

Lilly also gave the NMHA $500,000 to conduct a nine-month public education program to identify potential candidates for treatment of depression, the Journal said.

In the group’s 2003 Annual Report, recognition was noted for financial support to NMHA of amounts of more than $700,000, to Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer.

For the range of $300,000-699,999, recognition was given to GlaxoSmithKline and Janssen, and drug companies that gave between $100,000-299,999, included AstraZeneca, Forest Pharmaceuticals, McNeil, and Wyeth. The other major drug companies gave lesser amounts.

Big Pharma also uses front groups like NAMI and NMHA, to carry out advertising campaigns. For instance, on June 2, 2003, the Washington Post reported the arrival of a new quarterly magazine “replete with direct-to-consumer ads for psychiatric drugs” is set to debut.”

The American edition, the Post said, was unveiled at the annual conference of the NMHA, and had an initial printing of 50,000 copies which were to be mailed to 5,700 psychiatrists and distributed through the N MHA and NAMI.

Another supporter of TeenScreen is the American Psychiatric Association, to which most psychiatrists belong. A large portion of its revenue comes from Big Pharma advertising in its journals and unrestricted educational grants. At the group’s annual conventions, drug companies sponsor exhibitions, and pay $1000 to $2000 for speakers chosen from lists of psychiatrists who endorse their drugs.

For years, honorable medical professionals have been complaining about the APA’s devotion to drug pushing and Big Pharma. For instance, on December 4, 1998, after being a member of the group for 35 years, now deceased, Dr Loren Mosher, a psychiatrist who graduated from Stanford University and Harvard, sent a letter of resignation saying: “At this point in history, psychiatry has been almost completely bought out by the drug companies.”

“The APA could not continue,” he wrote, “without the pharmaceutical company support of meetings, symposia, workshops, journal advertising, grand rounds luncheons, unrestricted educational grants etc. etc. “

“American psychiatry,” he said, “has become drug dependent (that is, devoted to pill pushing) at all levels – private practitioners, public system psychiatrists, university faculty and organizationally.”

Dr Mosher concluded his letter of resignation by saying: “The major reason for this action is my belief that I am actually resigning from the American Psychopharmacological Association.”

Mr Hogan represents a TeenScreen promoter from one state, but through his investigation, Mr Kramer found that the TeenScreen people have managed to gain influence with the same kind of decision makers who control or direct funding in many other states.

For instance, many Federal and State government officials got involved in the plant to get TeenScreen set up in Florida schools. On March 23, 2004, Governor Jeb Bush held a press conference and issued a press release, claiming suicide was a leading cause of death among youth in Florida.

Charles Curie, Administrator of the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services agency traveled to Florida from Washington to join Jeb Bush at the press conference to announce the SAMHSA’s support of an initiative to conduct TeenScreen pilot programs in Florida to screen for mental illnesses such as depression and panic disorders that place them at higher risk for suicide attempts, the press release noted.

At the press conference, Jim McDonough, Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, told reporters, “Suicide is in fact a widespread threat that claims the lives of thousands of Floridians each year.”

The Center for Mental Health Services is the federal agency within SAMHSA, charged with the task of implement the recommendations of the NFC.

In June of 2004, Mr Kramer discovered that SAMHSA, had given the Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI), a one year $98,641 contract to implement a public information campaign, while simultaneously implementing TeenScreen in school districts in the Tampa area.

Mr Kramer tracked down a copy of the contract that said part of the campaign was to evaluate “the adherence to treatment recommendations of youth identified during the screenings” and “issues such as parental acceptance of treatment recommendations.”

In other words, he says, they wanted to find out whether parents would allow their kids to take the drugs prescribed.

According to Mr Kramer, at that time that the FMHI was awarded the federal contract, David Shern, who he refers to as the “dean” of FMHI, already had a contract with TeenScreen head quarters in New York, and had accepted $180,000 to sell the idea of the program to school districts throughout the state of Florida.

In fact, as it turns out, Mr Shern was working on behalf of TeenScreen New York office, while pushing TeenScreen for SAMHSA, and was also working for Eli Lilly on a Schizophrenia study, all at the same time.

Mr Shern and FMHI received funding from drug companies to study antipsychotic drugs totaling $381,664 from one company and $130,416 from another.

According to Mr Kramer, in promoting TeenScreen, FMHI worked together with the “social marketing” firm, Roberts Communications, to do a media blitz in the Tampa Bay area. The goal, he says, was to “foster an environment in Florida, beginning in Tampa Bay, which supports large-scale mental health screening programs for teens.”

Among the “target audiences,” listed, Mr Kramers says, “were elected officials, school district administrators, community leaders and mental health professionals.”

The planned blitz included such goals as: (1) Get the Tampa Tribune to do an editorial series and offer an overview of the “need” for TeenScreen in Tampa Bay; (2) Do a TeenScreen Florida web page; (3) Hold a press conference; (4) Do an “editorial briefing” with the St. Petersburg Times; (5) Come up with a Press Kit; (6) Get Laurie Flynn, the director of TeenScreen and David Shern of the FMHI on the “Kathy Fountain” show, a lunchtime talk show; and (7) Get fundraising done.

The FMHI’s plan was to increase the rate of participation in screening. To that end, FMHI agreed to implement TeenScreen in schools, collect information from parents and children, and to employ “Social Marketing” techniques to gather information and determine the most often raised objections by parents to the program.

>From this data, Mr Kramer explains, a systematic message and dissemination strategy was to be developed to help sell the program in schools all across the US. He says the bait used to get kids to participate in the screening included gifts like Blockbuster Video cards or $5 in cash or fast food coupons.

On March 22, 2004, unhappy about paying $180,000 and not getting enough bang for the buck, Ms Flynn contacted Mr McDonough. Through formal records requests, Mr Kramer obtained an email to Mr McDonough from Ms Flynn that complained about FMHI’s inability to get a program going in Florida after 18 months. She criticized Justin Doan, an employee of FMHI, saying he was “young, full of himself, not politically savvy, had never screened a kid and when he goes into meetings with local school officials he gets into deep water.”

Mr Flynn specifically told Mr McDonough that she needed “a horse to ride in on” and needed to get some kids screened. Notably, the email contained not a peep about concerns over children committing suicide because of an inability be screened.

Advocacy groups says kids who screen positive with TeenScreen get drug treatment only. During an interview in 2003, Dr Safer was asked, “what are your thoughts about non-pharmacological approaches to suicide prevention?”

He basically said therapy does not work and recommends drugs. “… psychotherapy is not terribly effective,” he said. “So if there really is evidence that certain or all antidepressants can cut this cycle of depression, plus stress, plus this rapid response,” he continued, “then that seems to be where the big hope is.”

According to the May 20, 2006, National Journal article, more recently, Dr Shafer made the statement that: “The easy availability of alcohol — not biology — probably is the main driver of youth suicide.”

Which critics say, begs the question of what can either TeenScreen or an SSRI do to change the “availability of alcohol” in society in order to prevent suicide. Does Dr Shafer maintain that there is a drug that will convince a child not to drink alcohol?

A new study published this month in the journal, Pediatrics, contains an equally ridiculous theory, with claims that teenagers who are depressed are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and may use sex as a way to cope with depression.

This band of pushers is now using this study as justification to screen and drug kids. According to Dr Jocelyn Lehrer of the University of California the study’s lead author, quoted by Reuters Health on July 10, 2006, the findings provide “only further reason to increase our efforts to promote mental health, and to prevent, identify and treat depressive symptoms and disorders among adolescents,”

And for an alarmist kick-off of this new theory, she told Reuters that half of the new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur in adolescents, and that depressed kids also face a disproportionate risk of contracting HIV.

As with alcohol, does Dr Lehrer contend that there is a pill that can stop kids from having sex? Would it not be more likely that children having inappropriate sex might be depressed because they feel guilty and ashamed over behaviors that compromise their moral and value system?

Instead of drugging a child, medical experts say, the goal should be to find out what might be leading the child to have promiscuous sex and then deal with the underlying problem.

While trying to milk tax dollars from Congress, in March 2004, Ms Flynn asked a Congressional committee to set up TeenScreen in schools by redirecting monies appropriated for alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs.

To fully realize the irony of this request, activists say, parents need to understand that in addition to the new generation of SSRI antidepressants and atyical antipsychotics, with kids who “flunk” TeenScreen, other drugs prescribed include the highly addictive stimulant drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine, or “speed” in simple addict terms.

Then on top of that, when the stimulant drugs make kids jittery or keep them awake, they are fed “downers” like Xanax, Valium, and sleeping pills, from another class of highly addictive drugs.

So this means Ms Flynn wants Congress to take tax dollars, set aside to help kids with alcohol and drug problems, and use the money to set up a marketing scheme that will jump-start millions of children down the road to the life-long torture of drug addiction and convert them into life-long customers of Big Pharma.

The fact is, a nation of junkies is already being created because so many of these drugs are readily available in the family medicine cabinet. According to the report, “Under the Counter: The Diversion and Abuse of Controlled Prescription Drugs in the US,” released in July 2005, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the number of Americans who abuse prescription drugs has nearly doubled from 7.8 million in 1992, to 15.1 million in 2003, and abuse of the drugs among teens has more than tripled.

The 3-year study examined the abuse of prescription opioids such as OxyContin, and Vicodin, central nervous system depressants like Valium and Xanax, and stimulants like Ritalin, Dexedrine and Adderall, and found that from 1992 to 2003, the number of 12 to 17-year-olds who abused prescription drugs jumped 212%, and with adults 18 and older there was an 81% increase.

The study said that the 15.1 million Americans abusing prescription drugs exceeds the combined total of persons abusing cocaine (5.9 million), hallucinogens (4.0 million), inhalants (2.1 million) and heroin (.3 million).

In 2002, the study found abuse of prescription drugs was implicated in at least 23% of drug-related hospital emergency room admissions, and 29.9% of drug related emergency room deaths.

A group of activists against TeenScreen have posted a petition online for people to sign who object to the screening, which they plan to send to federal, state and local lawmakers. Mr Kramer says the petition can also be used to educate people about TeenScreen because it conveys the facts about mental health screening and can be printed off and presented to school board members or legislators. Persons interested in signing the petition can click on the following link:


All Critics seem to agree on one issue; that mental health screening should first be conducted all the lawmakers and policy makers involved in backing TeenScreen to determine how they could allow such a blatant drug pushing scheme to be set up in the nation’s school system, without experiencing any guilt or shame.