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Parental Alienation Is Bad Parenting, Not A Psychiatric Disorder
January 12, 2005
by Tony Zizza

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle newspaper reported that a father's death at the hands of his very own son, may in fact be the result of "Parental Alienation Syndrome", (PAS). While parental alienation occurs far too often, (angry parents turning their child against the other parent), our family courts must penalize this practice of bad parenting. Even if it does mean the family court judge rules the alienating parent loses custody.

However, I think fathers'rights groups and others are making a big mistake in wanting PAS to be included as a "psychiatric disorder" in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM). Dr. Mary Ann Block has accurately called the DSM "psychiatry's billing bible." Furthermore, Douglas Darnell, Ph.D, has written that, "there are no effective treatments for either the obsessed alienator or the children." I believe to combat parental alienation, prevention is the key. Also, stiff penalties are certainly in order given the seriousness of turning a child against one of their parents.

The undeniable fact of the matter is that our family courts do need to be reformed to stop gender bias against noncustodial parents, usually fathers. I truly think that if we are going to criminalize the failure to pay confiscatory child support orders, why not jail noncustodial parents, usually mothers, for purposefully interfering with a child and parent's time together? Fair is fair. Parental Alienation is dead wrong.

But turning to the American Psychiatric Association to try and call bad parenting a psychiatric disorder is worse than throwing the baby out with the bath water. The 10-year-old Texas boy and his mother do carry blame in Rick Lohstroh's death. The boy did shoot his father, and his mother did turn the boy against his father. Yet this case begs for any positive sign of monumental justice. On a very large scale.

I am delighted the Texas 10-year-old boy's grandparents are suing the maker of Prozac, Eli Lilly. What a surprise, the boy was on Prozac when he shot his father in the back. Grandparents like Richard and Joanne Greene and thousands of others are correct in stating Eli Lilly neglected to warn doctors and patients of Prozac's documented side "effects." What has happened to GlaxoSmithKline in terms of its cash cow Paxil, must happen to Eli Lilly and every maker of antidepressants.

Clearly, we are in a twisted quandry. Yes, there is no denying that parental alienation occurs and our family courts have not responded to the valid complaints of fathers (and noncustodial mothers) who are victimized by parental alienation. Similarily, there is no denying our children as young as one year old are being drugged with antidepressants to cover up bad parenting skills. What a mess.

I would like to see both advocates of fathers' rights and all advocates of drug-free parenting come together. I can only imagine how many noncustodial parents in this country have been talked into taking Prozac or Paxil themselves to deal with being turned against by their own flesh and blood. What about their children? How many children dealing with the pain of a custody battle are drugged in order to cope with it is a question that demands answer. You see, lives depend on it.

So, how will justice best be served in the shooting death of Rick Lohstroh, a loving father? Who will bear the most responsibility? What will the final emotional and financial cost be? What about intent? Will we learn anything from this awful tragedy?

Perhaps more parents will lose custody when parental alienation is proved in family court. Perhaps more parents will wake up to the dangers of Prozac and all antidepressants and psychiatric drugs. Perhaps we, as a civil society, can better understand the importance of family post separation or divorce, and acknowledge our family courts are still grossly failing noncustodial parents and their children.

This said, something called "parental alienation syndrome" didn't kill Rick Lohstroh. But how much responsibility in a criminal sense can his son really share? We know something needs to be done about his mother. When the dust finally settles in this terribly sad case, justice would be perfectly served if Prozac was banned in America and the makers of Prozac are sued right into the ground, not just by Richard Lohstroh's son's grandparents, but by everyone who has suffered from the real effects of what can ultimately be called - a real evil pill.

Tony Zizza is a freelance writer based in the Atlanta area. He serves as Vice President of the State of Georgia for the organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education.

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