Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mental health screening is bogus

A NY Times letter says:
To the Editor:

Andrew Solomon reaches the wrong conclusion in his otherwise sensitive discussion of the Newtown massacre. He asserts that “we need to offer children better mental health screenings” that will lead to continuous treatment.

Yet Mr. Solomon’s own analysis indicates why mental health screening is unwarranted. Screening relies on self-reports of mental health problems, and killers like Adam Lanza can easily avoid identification by denying their problems.

Moreover, screening identifies anywhere from 20 percent to more than 50 percent of students as having mental health problems. It cannot correctly identify the tiny number of future killers but can falsely label millions of students as potential murderers with negative consequences for their lives.

Finally, effective mental health treatment depends on the willingness of people to participate in therapeutic efforts voluntarily, which is highly unlikely for the kinds of individuals who perpetrate mass shootings. Mental health screening will mislabel huge numbers of people as possible killers without protecting society from its deranged members.

East Brunswick, N.J., Dec. 23, 2012

The writer is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University.
Occasionally someone suggests that the public schools screen all kids for mental illness. This letter explains why such screening is ineffective.

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