Friday, August 13, 2004

Bush launches controversial mental health plan

Jeane Lenzer writes in the British Medical Journal this week that "President Bush announced on 26 July that his administration has begun implementing the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to "improve mental health services and support for people of all ages with mental illness" through comprehensive screening. The plan states that schools are in a "key position" to screen the "52 million students and six million adults who work at the schools" and includes recommendations for screening preschool children. Mr Bush's announcement comes after new reports showing that increasing numbers of toddlers and children are being prescribed amphetamines, anti-depressants, and antipsychotic drugs. Concern that widespread screening will only increase the number of young people taking drugs has triggered criticism of the plan. Dr Daniel Fisher, one of the 22 commissioners responsible for writing the final report for the president, said that widespread screening—at a time when medical education was "geared to the biomedical model and teachers want to get kids fixed"—could result in greater numbers of children being given "a label, a diagnosis, and a medication. What troubles me a little bit," said Dr Fisher, "is that mental health will continue to be used as a substitute for addressing the social, cultural, and economic needs of children." More...