Oregon Considers Mandatory Mental Health Exams for Students

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The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill that would require middle school and high school students to undergo an annual mental health exam.

The Salem Statesman Journal reports:

The pervasiveness of mental health issues and child suicide rates leads Oregon to rank as the worst state in the country for the prevalence of mental illness.

And the state’s¬†lack¬†of child psychiatrists¬†and school counselors leaves families waiting for months to get help.

Locally, multiple teen suicides have affected both Salem-Keizer Public Schools and the Jefferson School District this year.

Oregon lawmakers want to help with a proposed bill requiring every student in grades 6 through 12 to undergo a mental health wellness check once every school year.

Under Legislative Concept 2890, every school district and public charter school in the state would be required to participate.

The bill does not state who will administer the exam other than a “trained professional.” I think we can assume that will not be a child psychiatrist or school counselor since we were told part of the problem is that the state lacks this.¬†

Also, lacking in the bill is how much this will cost or who will pay

Also, the bill does not state what is information is gathered, how it will be used, or what screening tool will be used.

There is no mention of any kind of parental opt-out. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

2 thoughts on “Oregon Considers Mandatory Mental Health Exams for Students

  1. This is in itself an adult mental health issue: That bureaucrats think they can create a test that determines mental illnesses in middle school or high school students. As much as I loved my middle and high school students as a counselor (and teacher and principal), the one thing I always told parents about middle school in particular is it is full of squirrels and nuts. The kids were the squirrels and we adults were the nuts because we chose to work with the age group that is driven by erratic hormone development. In addition, the frontal lobe of the brain that controls development of critical thinking kicks in around age 11 (5th or 6th grade) and is completed around age 25. The incomplete development during that period doesn’t always excuse their weird, even stupid, behaviors, but it can explain a lot of them. How is a test going to measure behavior against incomplete biological capacity?

    Counselors, by the way, are too often used as “mini-administrators” with loads of paperwork related to administrative duties (i.e., planning a semester’s schedule of classes),so there is little time to do any actual counseling. The money on the tests might be better spent by hiring “academic advisers” to help administration plan schedules, help students plan their own schedules, and fill in college applications, etc. That would free up counselors to do in-depth help or even initial psychological counseling. I left counseling because of this paperwork situation. However, I saw a lot of those earning counseling degrees who weren’t interested in working with students. They just wanted out of the classroom but did not want the hassles of being a principal. Doing paperwork met their personal needs. (Yes, there are a lot of good counselors out there, too.)

    Lastly, as educators, we have been told that if we tell a parent that a child needs a doctor’s diagnosis for, say ADHD, that our recommendation binds us legally into paying for that diagnosis, Is Oregon going to pick up the tab for any student it thinks needs diagnosis and/or treatment?

    The “culture” of Oregon needs a test that measures its citizens’ values, attitudes, and their sense of self-responsibility. Then compare those answers to the actions and results the state is seeing among its citizens. To “measure” children’s mental health and not to look in the adult mirror first is a major mistake.

    This is truly an ill-advised political move. Better yet, as a middle schooler would say, “This is just dumb.”

  2. My guess is it will be a test administered on a computer with some sort of facial recognition. The computer will crunch the “data” and alert someone if the student doesn’t answer the questions correctly or if their facial expression seems “off”. This data will follow this child into adulthood and beyond. The parents in Oregon should be very concerned about this.

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