What Does Suicide Prevention In Schools and Behavioral Marketing Have to Do With Eachother?

by Molly on September 14, 2013

This is going to be long…if you have children in school, will soon, or are grandparents … this is something everyone should know!

I am going to start out with my friend Susie’s post, which I believe she is right on in her perceptions, a comment from the good Dr Gary Thompson, and then a tidbit from a friend who did some research on her own. This line of thought and questioning came from a recent article on KSL. It all ties together…its worth the read!

Common Core Assessments have been shown to cause many cases of depression and suicidal thoughts in K-12 children from NY. Dozens of principals have penned a letter stating specific psychological problems were caused by these assessments and many states now are trying to completely stop giving them. Now the Utah State Office of Education is implementing these same mandatory federal assessments.

Does anyone see the problem with the USOE implementing tests that have been proven to cause depression and suicidal thoughts and then turning around and ‘fixing’ it by screening every single child for suicide prevention? What a weird coincidence.

Are you comfortable with public school employees, untrained in psychological testing and therapy, asking your child without you being there if he has ever thought about killing himself? What about planting all kinds of seeds in a child’s head about suicide and depression?

Susie: I don’t know how this will play out, but I do know that it will be brought into Utah schools and “will rank a person’s risk based on answers to a series of direct questions that include “Have you wished you were dead or not alive anymore, or wish to fall asleep and not wake up?”. Individually asked by a professional to a child who is showing signs is one thing, but this is a real concern if they want to screen all children with these kinds of questions without parental knowledge, permission or attendance. My original thought is that Common Core is going to cause all kinds of problems. Of course there’s going to be more depression! Add the parents to that list too. But does that mean we give mental healthcare over to the schools to solve?

Dr Thompson: Sigh. Our clinic already busted Granite School District in early 2012 via a formal USOE complaint for misuse of clinical inventories (their official name).

These are clinical instruments to be used by clinicians. Period.

They know that mental issues (depression, anxiety, suicide) are rampant issues. They also know that when these things spread in a pressure filled closed environment such as 2,000 middle school/high school kids that one statistically high possibility is that this erupts into a “Columbine situation.”

If a lay parent brings this out, they simply attack them and state they are just trying to spread fear. When they actually have the gall to pull that in doctoral level clinicians, we just simply plop down 500 pages of supporting peer reviewed research and FBI Behavioral Studies on school shootings on their desk…..then they are never to be heard from again.

It’s funny and sort of ironic to me…we spend the first two years of graduate school getting the crap scared out of us regarding how the misuse of practicing psychology can screw up a kid in a 101 different ways. Clinical inventories are no exception….

We know that the sometimes even the administration of these instruments can cause a deep, unseen for the moment psychological reaction in kids and teens (some adults too). I’m trained to recognize this during an administration, de-escalate the reaction if necessary, and inform the parent via a formal feedback what happened and how to de-escalate the symptoms in their own home, or they are provided a 24 hour cell number of one of our clinicians to intervene if necessary.

USOE is trying to be Cowboys while using your kids as guinea pigs. There is a reason why school “psychologists” can not “practice” outside of a school setting independently, and their is a reason why they are not allowed to make mental health diagnosis’s: they are not trained to do so, not do they have ANY formal clinical training hours as part of their education and training.

A growing body of evidence suggests people are more likely to behave in a particular way ways when they see the people around them doing so (or when marketing or ideas are suggested to them that many others are acting in a certain way).

Now, what does this have to do with schools testing or surveying students for suicide prevention? Keep reading…it gets better.

Alex Laskey and Daniel Yates, co-founders of software startup Opower, wanted to see if this theory could be applied to household energy use…

Opower has partnered with 21 utilities to incorporate neighbor comparisons into gas and electric bills.

“The Next Wave of Savings”Opower’s business plan is modeled on the work of psychologist Robert Cialdini, whose textbook Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a staple of college marketing courses.

Posting signs that said reusing towels is good for the environment had a small impact on behavior. But when he changed the message to say that the majority of hotel guests reuse their towels, the number of people who did so went up 30%.

“Simple information about what constitutes a good choice is rapidly, almost primitively, processed.” This interest in consumer psychology is a new paradigm for utilities, which for years were run by engineers and, says Laskey, “without regard to customers.”

“changing consumer behavior… Privately held Opower, which was originally named Positive Energy, was founded by longtime friends Yates (who previously founded educational software company Edusoft, which he sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing) and Laskey (who had been running political campaigns).

Of course, there may be drawbacks to an approach that relies on behavior change.

The thinking…they want to be acknowledged for their efforts.

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