Myths and Facts About Minnesota's
Plan to Screen the Mental Health of Toddlers
Karen R. Effrem, MD
EdWatch Board of Directors
May 11, 2005
 
        The Minnesota Senate's plan to screen the mental health of 3 year olds will put it in the same league as Illinois, whose oppressive Children's Mental Health Act now requires mental health screening for all children entering kindergarten and during the transition to junior high and high school. 

        As originally introduced, the Minnesota bill, authored by Senator David Tomassoni and Representative Mindy Greiling, would have required this 'socioemotional' screening before entering kindergarten. Thanks to the good work of Senators Betsy Wergin and Sean Nienow, and sensing the enormous opposition to screening such young children, Senator Tomassoni allowed the inclusion of an opt-in parental consent requirement.

        Even with this provision, however, mental health screening of toddlers is extremely dangerous!!  The diagnostic criteria are vague and subjective and can be based on political or religious beliefs, and children are being coercively screened and drugged with dangerous and ineffective medications. Below are some myths and facts regarding mental health screening.  Detailed information on each of these points and more is available by clicking here to our website



Myth: Psychiatric diagnostic criteria are scientifically validated and non-controversial among experts.

Fact: Mental health diagnostic criteria are very vague and subjective. The very studies and reports cited by proponents of universal screening are full of contradictions. These experts admit the lack of science underlying psychiatric labels. Myth: It is possible to accurately diagnose mental illness in young children, even infants. 'Even before their first birthday, babies can suffer from clinical depression, traumatic stress disorder, and a variety of other mental health problems.' (Florida Strategic Plan for Infant Mental Health)

Fact: Due to rapid developmental changes, it is very difficult to accurately diagnose young children. Myth: Children are not adequately treated for mental illness.

Fact: Children are over diagnosed and over treated with psychiatric medications and both problems will increase with wide spread screening programs. Myth: Children would never be labeled potentially violent or mentally unstable based on their worldview or politics.

Fact: Federally funded school violence prevention programs do label children based on their beliefs. A federally funded study held that people of a particular political philosophy had hallmarks of mental illness. Myth: The decision to treat a child with psychotropic medications is always between a parent and their physician.

Fact: Parent all over the country have been coerced with threats of child abuse or to place their children on or continue psychiatric medications prompting over 20 state legislatures and the US Congress to introduce or pass legislation prohibiting coercion. Myth: Psychiatric drug treatments are effective in children.

Fact: Neither antidepressants like Prozac nor stimulants like Ritalin are effective in children, but pharmaceutical companies, with the approval of the FDA, only published positive studies despite having evidence for years of their ineffectiveness. Myth: Psychiatric drugs are safe for children.

Fact: Evidence of dangerous and sometimes deadly side effects of psychiatric medication has been covered up for years by the pharmaceutical manufacturers, sometimes with the help of the FDA.