Marketing depression and turning a profit

Depression screenings should not be a tool for pharmaceutical companies’ profit motive.

Pharmaceutical companies attempting to market depression to sell their products often craft many of the Web sites that provide depression screenings. Professionals are taking advantage of youths, and the federal government is paying for them to do so.

In the past year, the Bush administration-sponsored TeenScreen has been under much scrutiny and lawsuits because of its testing and diagnosing of students without seeking parental permission. Moreover, the test has a disorder label for the most ordinary of behaviors, having technical terms for simple laziness and arguing with parents, both qualities that most children and young adults have experienced at some point. The federal government funds programs such as TeenScreen, making the services of these companies not free, as they marketed because money is channeled from federal tax dollars. Nearly a $1 billion goes toward programs like TeenScreen and others through the Center for Mental Health Service. This accepting of “gifts” is a widespread health concern many health institutions and universities are forced to reckon with: Are they to accept money and freebees from pharmaceutical companies while continuing to appear uninfluenced, or should they reject any freebies they are offered?

Boynton Health Service chooses to dissociate itself from pharmaceutical companies. The provider goes as far as rejecting mugs, pins and other trinkets. To maintain an objective position, health institutions and universities must separate from pharmaceutical companies.

Practice can be influenced by how much a pharmaceutical company contributes. In fact, many colleges are dealing with this very issue. Of 170 screened students in Nashville, Tenn., a screening that was co-sponsored by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, 96 of 170 students went to speak to a therapist after the screening.

Pharmaceutical companies, as part of a public relations or marketing campaign, sponsor specific screenings. Students should be very cautious of these screenings because these companies have other incentives at stake when providing such services.