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Nathaniel S. Lehrman, M.D.

On TeenScreen

The claim by the director of Columbia University's TeenScreen Program that her program would significantly reduce suicides is unsupported by the data. Indeed, such screenings would probably cause more harm than good.

It is impossible, on cursory examination, or on the basis of the Program's brief written screening test, to detect suicidality or "mental illness," however we define it. Indeed, the fears evoked by the process of seeking out mental illness can create psychiatric symptoms. Searching out those "illnesses," rather than relying on the troubled to seek help for themselves, violates the privacy of those in whom these "illnesses" are sought. And for those youngsters whose screenings supposedly reveal such "mental illness," the major treatment will then be drugs. Aren't eight million kids on ritalin enough?

Nathaniel S. Lehrman, M.D., 10 Nob Hill Gate, Roslyn NY 11576; 516/626-0238; former Clinical Director, Kingsboro Psychiatric Center, Brooklyn NY; former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein and SUNY Downstate Colleges of Medicine.