December 14, 2012:
With the terrifying news out of Newtown Connecticut this morning, it is now more clear than ever that psychological profiling of any student demonstrating possibly dangerous behavior be ordered, and to hell with their personal right to privacy. When lives and guns are involved, emergency methods must be taken. It seems that these perpetrators are seeking closure of some kind. When that involves mass killing and the taking of their own lives, society is at risk, remains unprotected, and learns nothing.
It’s time the American Psychiatric Association got its act together. Let the ruling body immediately review the latest DSM-5, and “clean it up” to the extent of including a requirement that any individual inflicted with the pain of Parental Alienation (PAS or whatever) HAS A FORM OF MENTAL SICKNESS. Until this is done, students wracked with overwhelming conflicts lurking in their inmost family relationships will continue to seek relief. It is worth noting that the first victim of this latest outrage by a twenty-year old male student was his sleeping gun-loving mother, and then on to the elementary school to take down teachers and babies. This happened in the peaceful Connecticut countryside community of Newtown. 28 people have died, including himself, and still counting!
[Piers Morgan on CNN publicized his opinions on gun violence, and incredibly, the NRA is asking for his eviction from the shores of the USA! This column appeared in MailOnline on December 30, the end of the year. He says it better than I could have done]
December 13, 2012:
I see in an article in the current Time Magazine (Dec. 17), a report on the new guidelines for Mental Illness. It summarizes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used by doctors for their purposes and insurance companies, on which to base their decisions. The new features of the DSM-5 have just been approved, and will be published in May 2013. They’re just “cleaning it up” until then.
The article tells us that in the world of mental health, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is more or less the bible. Doctors use the DSM’s definitions to diagnose depression, stuttering, fetishism, schizophrenia and more than 300 other conditions. Insurance companies use it to justify reimbursements; without a DSM code, mental-health patients usually don’t get a dime. And the manual carries enormous cultural heft: when it stopped listing homosexuality as a mental disorder–after a 1974 psychiatrists’ debate in which being gay was deemed sane by a vote of 5,854 to 3,810–gay rights received a crucial boost.
Among the many conditions listed, those with affects caused by Hoarding, Bereavement, Binge Eating etc. are allowed; Aspergers and Autistics is a maybe, and Parental Alienation Syndrome is definitely not in.
Much has been written and much has been discredited in the efforts of Richard Gardner, who came up with it back in the early 1980s. But I’ve had personal reasons to revisit and rethink the case of Parental Alienation, and whether it rises to the level of a syndrome. There is a storm of controversy attached to it.
But first, what is a syndrome? Wikipedia comes up with this definition:
In medicine and psychology, a syndrome is the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs (observed by someone other than the patient), symptoms (reported by the patient), phenomena or characteristics that often occur together, so that the presence of one or more features alerts the healthcare provider to the possible presence of the others.
Let’s assume that you are a divorced or separated parent, and that your kid is firmly alienated towards you, one of the parents, and there is no underlying reason! By underlying reason, I mean that you, the alienated parent has no history of abuse, violence, or drunken behavior, and instead your behavior has always been loving and steadfast and caring, and, even better, you have always provided financial support for the kid without protest. And in fact, used to have an excellent relationship.
I believe that the condition has become hard-wired into the child’s mental processes, and is therefore a form of clinical sickness capable of being rectified.
Well, the DSMs say that, nevertheless, it is not an insurable condition. It may require medical intervention, or it may require counseling, but it’s only if you go along with their opinion and it’s your choice. As far as the courts are concerned, it doesn’t exist as a syndrome, or an identifiable medical condition, and will probably refer to the DSM protocol.
It is my view that, lacking any other probable cause, a syndrome IS operating. Professional intervention is not only advisable, but, bearing in mind the kid’s future workplace career and college education, should be required by any licensing authority, and even ordered to be tackled by the medical profession, the schools, and the courts. The official view seems to be that the individual’s and family’s right to privacy comes first, and the public’s right to be safe and protected comes second.
Whether the other parent, the one conditioning the child towards alienation, should be punished is a different issue, already in hand. That parent may well go to prison if the other one pushes for it, for the courts frown on that behavior. But if that happened, even such an order most probably will not release the child from his or her frozen mental state, might even make it worse (“So you put my Dad/Mom in prison? I HATE you”), and therapy will still be needed. Please, do everyone, and your child, a favor.