TeenScreen is a so-called “diagnostic psychiatric service” survey done on children who are then referred to psychiatric treatment. The evidence suggests that the objective of the psychiatrists who designed TeenScreen is to place children so selected on psychotropic medication.
“It’s just a way to put more people on prescription drugs,” said Marcia Angell, a medical ethics lecturer at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Truth About Drug Companies.” She said such programs will boost the sale of antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac even after the FDA in September ordered a “black box” label warning that the pills might spur suicidal thoughts or actions in minors.
TeenScreen attempts to create in the media, a suicide hysteria, when in fact suicides are on the decline. The suicide rate for ages 10 to 19 fell from 6.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 1992 to 4.6 per 100,000 in 2001, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 1991, 10 of 100,000 people in Florida ages 10-24 committed suicide. By 1999, that number had dropped to six out of 100,000.
TeenScreen was developed by psychiatrist David Shaffer of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Shaffer, according to the Integrity in Science Database , is a paid consultant and apologist of pharmaceutical companies. As a consultant, Shaffer has served as an expert witness for Hoffman la Roche and Wyeth and as a consultant to GlaxoSmithKline on paroxetine (Paxil or Seroxat) and adolescent suicide.
In December of 2003 British drug regulators recommended against the use of antidepressants in the treatment of depressed children under 18 because some of the drugs had been linked to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Shaffer at the request of Pfizer, (the maker of Zoloft) 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.
Just this last October, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that all medications used to treat depression must carry a black box warning label, advising that children and teens may become suicidal when taking the drugs. Shaffer opposed the FDA regulation and argued to the FDA’s scientific advisory panel that any drop in suicide over the last few years was caused by the growing use of antidepressants!
However, overwhelming evidence indicates that psychiatric drugs are not preventing suicides – they are causing them.
On January 1, 2005, the British Medical Journal, on the heels of the FDA black box warning, reported that the FDA has agreed to review confidential drug company documents that went missing during a controversial product liability suit more than 10 years ago. The documents indicate a link between the drug fluoxetine (Prozac), made by Eli Lilly, and suicide attempts and violence.
In Pinellas County, Florida, an ongoing research project has already established that a large majority of teens who committed suicide were on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment. In the years 2002 and 2003, 81% of the suicide cases were either on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment.
TeenScreen and Columbia University refuse to divulge who is funding TeenScreen. One corner of the Internet did give a clue to the funding. Eli Lilly, (the pharmaceutical company) funded the TeenScreen program in Tennessee.
Although the name TeenScreen was not mentioned, the New York Times , reported on December 17, 1998 that William J. Ruane, an investment advisor put $8 million into the screening research of Shaffer, the TeenScreen psychiatrist.
As far back as 1995, Ruane already had a “longstanding relationship” with Shaffer. In June of 1995 the Ruanes funded a professorship of Pediatric Psychopharmacology at Columbia University which “supported training and research into the effectiveness of psychopharmacological agents in treating childhood psychiatric disorders”.
The Psychiatric Times reported in March of 1998 that Ruane and wife Joy, gave 1.5 million to study the effects of psychiatric medication in children to the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Shaffer’s home base.
According to a New York Post article in 1999, the New York State Psychiatric Institute conducted experiments on kids, some as young as 6, with the powerful mood-altering drug Prozac and failed to tell the children or their parents about the most serious risks. While testing Prozac on 30 severely depressed patients ages 12 to 18, researcher’s notes indicated “Some patients have been reported to have an increase in suicidal thoughts and/or violent behavior”. Records showed that at least four experiments used Prozac on young children including one funded by Prozac’s manufacturer, Eli Lilly Co.
Laurie Flynn , the PR for TeenScreen, searches out teens who have committed suicide and then writes letters to the editors throughout the country, promoting TeenScreen as the “solution”. Flynn is no stranger to the pharmaceutical industry. She formally served as the head of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill which received millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies.
In Florida, David Shern of the Florida Mental Health Institute is attempting to lobby the Pinellas County School Board to change it’s policy on anonymous surveys of children. He wants the school board policy changed so that he can obtain the child’s name, after he does his “suicide” survey. He does not want student surveys to be anonymous, as they are now under existing regulations.
The Florida Mental Health Institute, under Shern’s direction has received $120,000 from Columbia’s TeenScreen. Shern and the FMHI have also received a grant from Eli Lilly in the amount of $249,420 for a study on the use of antipsychotic drugs.
As to studies on TeenScreen itself, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (top U.S. Government Research outfit) report of May of 2004 which states:
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 morality.
D. No studies were found that directly address the harms of screening and treatment for suicide risk.
Pilot applications of TeenScreen offer no evidence of success.
TeenScreen was established in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1997. According to a 2003 Tulsa World newspaper article, Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, stated: “To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest number of youth suicides we’ve ever had during the school year — a number we find very frightening.”
350 youths were suicide screened in Colorado using TeenScreen’s survey. Unbelievably, they found 50% were at risk of suicide.
Mark Taylor, who was shot several times during the April 1999 massacre at Columbine high school says that programs like TeenScreen experiment on kids, who will eventually end up on psychotropic drugs. He attributes the Columbine incident to the fact that the shooters were on antidepressants.