Big Pharma Is in Your Child’s Classroom – How Marketers Have Hooked Teachers into Peddling “Mental Health” Drugs

School teachers these days have more on their minds than teaching the 3 R’s. Over the last decade, the pharmaceutical industry and their alliances have gradually enlisted the services of schools to market the belief that problems, such as anxiety, inattention, disruptive behavior and depression, not class inequity, impairs the ability of students to do well academically and socially in school. And if these problems are left untreated, they often lead to dire outcomes: school failure, high school drop-outs, adult unemployment, mental illness, poor relationships, incarceration and even divorce.

On the surface, it all sounds hopeful and compassionate. The promotion of positive mental health in all students through the use of a variety of social skills programs, which teach children how to deal with their feelings or manage stress, seems helpful and supportive.

Largely hidden from the public’s view is the extensive training that teachers have received to identify students with “mental health” problems and connect them to medical treatments, more often than not, questionable behavior and mind-altering medications, which are marketed and sold by pharmaceutical companies, such as Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and others.

Like all corporations, drug companies are driven by the desire to create multi-billion dollar profits and what better way than to influence government partners to co-opt teachers and other school staff to advertise their products directly to students under the guise of good mental health.

I have the highest regard for teachers, who strive to do the best they can with the resources that they are given by administrators. However, there are reasons to be concerned about the activities that are taking place in our schools across the country. Teachers have been repeatedly subjected to multiple “mental health” training programs over the years by their respective school boards and governments.

These programs are harmful to children, not healthful, in that they give credibility to biased studies and endanger the overall health of children. For example, a typical training manual, such as Mental Health Training, For teachers, states that “when brains get sick, a specific part of the brain is not working well or the neurochemical messengers that help the different parts of the brain communicate are not working properly”. Teachers are told that neurochemical disturbances can cause problems with mood, behavior or thinking, which are involved with a number of mental disorders, including anxiety, autism, depression, impulse control, psychosis, suicide and Tourette Syndrome. This information is completely wrong.

The 2013 DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) psychiatric handbook on mental disorders, published by the American Psychiatry Association (APA),emphatically states that there are no symptom specificity, genetic, physiological, biological tests, x-rays or other biological markers for any mental disorder.

In the interests of profit making, these scientific facts have been conveniently ignored by many community organizations. Instead, teachers are being encouraged to spot pseudoscientific “diseases”  in their students and guide them to a designated health professional for treatment. Similar training materials and recent proposals to have teachers include a “mental health” curriculum for students in their health classes are other examples of the deceptive infiltration of the pharmaceutical industry in our schools.

Several schools in Ontario already include a “mental health” curriculum for students, based on drug company propaganda. Ontario is the first and efforts are ongoing to promote similar programs in other Canadian provinces and American states. Beginning in 2018, New York state will require all elementary, middle and high schools to include “mental health” education in the health curriculum.

The notion that children are sick with brain diseases received a boost from Bill Clinton at the first-ever White House Conference in Mental Health in 1999, which was heavily financed and supported by the pharmaceutical industry. Clinton promoted a training program in the nation’s schools to help teachers identify more troubled children and get them psychiatric help. At the time, there was not a shred of medical evidence that children were suffering from faulty brain neurotransmitters. The announcement helped to identify millions of children with social and emotional conditions, label them as mentally ill and medicate them with powerful brain disabling medications.

By 2017, more than nine million children were on psychiatric drugs for newly found mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, Autism, bipolar disorder and even school avoidance disorder.

Recent court documentary records and unbiased evidence-based studies show that drug companies have consistently suppressed and hidden negative clinical outcomes for psychiatric medications like Ritalin, Prozac, Risperdal and others.

In fact, independent clinical trials, free of drug company influence, have repeatedly shown that the use of psychiatric drugs in children is harmful to developing brains and bodies. The drugs have been documented to cause negative, debilitating effects in children, such as akathisia, severe anxiety, mania and early death. These risks are never disclosed to parents or students.

Evan, a 7-year-old in grade 2, is an example of the harmful consequences of this destructive trend. A child of a young single parent, Evan was described by his teachers as having difficulty with the expectations of his grade 1 class. The school recommended that Evan be assessed by his pediatrician. Evan was prescribed Concerta.

Side effects of this ADHD drug include anxiety, new or worse thoughts and behaviors, new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility, hearing voices, mania and even psychosis. Evan was observed following drug treatment to be easily irritated, inattentive, argued with others, refused to listen or undertake any challenging school work.

Evan ‘s school suggested further medical follow-up. He was deemed to be depressed by his pediatrician and prescribed Prozac. The side effects of Prozac include increased energy, racing thoughts, excessive talking, hallucinations, manic episodes and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Evan reacted by becoming even more aggressive and irritable. He claimed others were out to get him and talked about killing himself. At home, he was in constant motion, was fearful and demanded constant attention from his mother.

Evan ’s doctor subsequently withdrew Prozac and replaced it with Risperdal, an anti-psychotic drug, once recommended only for adults with severe psychotic episodes. His behavior continued to deteriorate. He engaged in verbal threats, used foul language and hit and kicked teachers and students. At home, he displayed obsessive behaviors, such as banging on the walls, peeing outside the bathroom and hoarding food.

At the age of seven and a half, Evan was considered to be a very sick boy. His doctor certified that he had a mental disability and he was referred to a special class for severe behavioral problems. He continues to be on a heavy regimen of psychiatric drugs. His future as an adult looks bleak. He will likely be incarcerated one day or confined to a mental institution, not the healthy, happy future he was promised by the drug industry.

These destructive practices appear to have gone unnoticed by child advocacy and consumer groups, who would be up in arms if the marketers of Coca-Cola or the tobacco industry, were allowed to access Canadian and American classrooms to advertise products directly to students.

Some consumers are beginning to realize that behind the rhetoric of helpful school-based “mental health” interventions, lies a powerful commercial enterprise, intent on selling profitable drugs to impressionable students.

If we are to protect children from abuse, exploitation and harmful substances, and their right to adequate healthcare and full development of their potential in school, these unethical medical practices must be stopped. Otherwise, our society will be guilty of becoming what Aldous Huxley predicted in his book Brave New World, laboratories, in which teachers readily recommend medication to control any child, who is considered non-compliant or too emotional to fit into the new order. The current situation is an urgent problem.