The current issue of the National Psychologist (July/August 2012) has an interesting article about the impending introduction in Australia of mental health checks for three-year-olds. The examinations are part of a nationwide, government-funded program called Healthy Kids Check. (Doesn’t that sound good?) The program, which will be voluntary, is supported by the Australian Medical Association.
The idea, of course, is to scoop children into the mental health maw at an early age, ensuring them client-for-life status.
Here’s a quote from the article:
“Supporters say the program will allow intervening before mental problems become severe, comparing that to medical tests to find and treat physical illnesses early to avoid crisis situations. Critics worry that the checkups will result in many children needlessly being labeled as having mental disorders and perhaps being overmedicated at an early age.”
Among the critics of the program is Allen Frances, M.D. He was a member of the APA’s work group to revise DSM-III (to produce DSM-III-R) and was chairperson of the DSM-IV task force. In those days he apparently supported the manuals and all that they imply, but he seems to have had a change of heart, and today he often speaks out against the medicalization-of-everything philosophy. Doing an about-face of this magnitude cannot be easy and, in my view, he is to be commended.
Much of his criticism has been directed towards child psychiatrists whom he accuses of “creating” epidemics among children, particularly in the areas of autism, childhood “bipolar disorder,” and “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” The Australian Broadcasting Association quotes Dr. Frances as saying: “There can be lots of unintended negative consequences to labelling children who essentially are normal and will grow out of whatever problem they have at that moment.” I would agree.