Children taken to mental health facilities, from school grounds!
Taking “care” or taken for a ride?
by Ms. Laurie Anspach, Mental Health Activist and Executive Director of Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida (CCHR)
There has been a real “buzz about town” regarding the controversial subject of mental health screening within our public schools. Many parents are left with questions about their rights to protect their children. Parents have the right to know what actions will being taken, by the school, when their child is late for class, skips class, doesnt sit still in class or generally, is deemed inappropriate by a school counselor or teacher.
One young girl made the news after she was subjected to a so-called suicide prevention movie that provided extremely controversial criteria for how to determine if someone is at risk. The idea of mental health entering our childrens school day, is perhaps surprising to some. Unfortunately, the public schools are ridden with different programs that ask intrusive questions of the students; shows them films in the name of suicide prevention; and generally opens the door to diagnosing any child with an apparent disorder that is not backed up by any medical proof.
According to the Florida, WESH T.V, channel 2 report Jenny Helmick, a student at Wolf Lake Middle School, went to see a guidance counselor and ended up spending the night at Lakeside Alternatives. (a mental health facility). This student was involuntarily committed from the school grounds following the showing of a movie about suicide prevention. That is just one way a student can end up being extracted from school and involuntarily committed through the Baker Act (Floridas involuntary commitment law). Jenny was one of four students taken to Lakeside from Wolf Lake Middle School in one year, according to the WESH report.
Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida is a non-profit watchdog group that investigates and exposes violations of human rights in the field of mental health. At our offices, we have received many calls regarding children who were taken from school grounds and brought to a psychiatric ward.
A sample of the typical mental health questionnaire is below. The child needs to answer a multiple choice set of statements and rate them per this numerical system.
1= None of the time
2= Very rarely
3= A little of the time
4 = Some of the time
5= A good part of the time
6= Most of the time
7= All of the time
__________ I feel I get pushed around more than others
__________ I feel that I am a likable person
__________ I am afraid I will appear foolish to others
Imagine if children, who know they have already broken a school rule, under the pressure of getting in trouble at home, answer these questions and 20 more questions like it, but in addition, depending on their answers, they may be deemed by the psychologist administering this questionnaire, to be a risk to themselves or a risk to others. Once the child is deemed such a risk, they are escorted by a law enforcement official, to a receiving facility for the Baker Act, involuntary commitment.
There is an entire array of intervention programs that have been implemented throughout our public schools. Teen Screen, Signs of Suicide and On Campus Intervention Program are a few of them. CCHR Florida has received calls from parents who have told us that their children are subjected to the questionnaires for wearing a shirt that is too short, for being late to school, skipping class or fist fights in the playground. The problems seem to be problems that anyone who is 30 years or older, would have remembered as being handled by detention after school, extra school work and cleaning erasers for the teacher. Now, we have intervention programs, mental health counselors, psychiatric drugs being dispensed to children right in the school by the school nurse.
Perhaps, it is important to either fully educate the parents about the full procedure of these intervention programs, which would include educating them about the potential of their child being involuntarily committed and held in a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours, minimally. Perhaps, it is time to fully educate the parents about the fact that there are no medical tests, chemical imbalance tests or blood tests to prove that any mental health disorder exists and that the psychiatric drugs that are prescribed to these children are in the same class as cocaine and carry dangerous side effects (some include the FDA black box warning of suicidal ideation).
Additionally, perhaps it is time to review the aspect of parental consent.
CCHR Florida has copies of the mental health screening consent forms. One of these is a two page parental consent form written in 8pt type (which is very difficult to read due to it’s small size) and does not mention the potential of a students evaluation leading to the involuntary commitment.
Minimally, we need to ask ourselves, are parents fully informed? Are the childrens rights fully protected and are the children’s best interests being looked after?