by Congressman Ron Paul | September 14, 2004
A presidential initiative called The “New Freedom Commission on Mental Health” has issued a report recommending forced mental health screening for every child in America, including preschool children. The goal is to promote the patently false idea that we have a nation of children with undiagnosed mental disorders crying out for treatment.
One obvious beneficiary of the proposal is the pharmaceutical industry, which is eager to sell the psychotropic drugs that undoubtedly will be prescribed to millions of American schoolchildren under the new screening program. Of course a tiny minority of children suffer from legitimate mental illnesses, but the widespread use of Ritalin and other drugs on youngsters who simply exhibit typical rambunctious, fidgety, and impatient behavior is nothing short of criminal. It may be easier to teach and parent drugged kids, but convenience is no justification for endangering them. Children’s brains are still developing, and the truth is we have no idea what the long-term side effects of psychiatric drugs may be. Medical science has not even exhaustively identified every possible brain chemical, even as we alter those chemicals with drugs.
Dr. Karen Effrem, a physician who strongly opposes mandatory mental health screening, warns us that “America’s children should not be medicated by expensive, ineffective, and dangerous medications based on vague and dubious diagnoses.” She points out that psychiatric diagnoses are inherently subjective, as authors of the diagnostic manuals admit. She also is concerned that mental health screening could be used to label children whose attitudes, religious beliefs, and political views conflict with the secular orthodoxy that dominates our schools.
The greater issue, however, is not whether youth mental health screening is appropriate. The real issue is whether the state owns your kids. When the government orders “universal” mental health screening in schools, it really means “mandatory.” Parents, children, and their private doctors should decide whether a child has mental health problems, not government bureaucrats. That this even needs to be stated is a sign of just how obedient our society has become toward government. What kind of free people would turn their children’s most intimate health matters over to government strangers? How in the world have we allowed government to become so powerful and arrogant that it assumes it can force children to accept psychiatric treatment whether parents object or not?
Parents must do everything possible to retain responsibility and control over their children’s well-being. There is no end to the bureaucratic appetite to rule every aspect of our lives, including how we raise our children. Forced mental health screening is just the latest of many state usurpations of parental authority: compulsory education laws, politically-correct school curricula, mandatory vaccines, and interference with discipline through phony “social services” agencies all represent assaults on families. The political right has now joined the political left in seeking the de facto nationalization of children, and only informed resistance by parents can stop it. The federal government is slowly but surely destroying real families, but it is hardly a benevolent surrogate parent.