MentalMeds News
A Newsletter from
Issue 6

Dear Reader,

The big news this month is the decision by the National Indie Excellence Awards to name Medicines for Mental Health a finalist for 2008! I am very excited by this news. Read more about the details below!

This week's featured article is by Elaine Klonicki, a freelance writer and former columnist for The News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Elaine's interests span the range from military history to psychotherapy. She has written three books, one of which is a guidebook to therapy. I invite you to visit her Web site and blog at and read more about her books, her background, and her interests.
Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.

P.S. As always, if you do not wish to receive email from me, please let me know, and I will remove your name from my list.

Table of Contents

Calling for Articles

Do you have experiences you would like to share about how you have coped with mental illness? Uplifting stories? Educational stories? Email me with your idea, and if it makes sense, I will be happy to include it in a future issue.


Funny stuff from around the Internet.

Three Trips, one Death, from Joke Crazy

A noted psychiatrist was a guest at a gathering, and his hostess naturally broached the subject in which he was most at ease.
    "Would you mind telling me, Doctor," she asked, "how you detect a mental deficiency in somebody who appears completely normal?"
    "Nothing is easier," he replied. "You ask him a simple question which everyone should answer with no trouble. If he hesitates, that puts you on the track."
    "What sort of question?"
    "Well, you might ask him, 'Captain Cook made three trips around the world and died during one of them. Which one?'"
    The hostess thought a moment, then said with a nervous laugh, "You wouldn't happen to have another example would you? I must confess I don't know much about history."

What's Wrong Doc?, also from Joke Crazy.

An elderly woman called the hospital to inquire about the health of a patient.
    "Hospital Operator? Hello, Darling. I'd like to talk with the person who gives the information about the patients. But I don't want to know if the patient is better or doing like expected, or worse. I want all the information from top to bottom, from A to Z."
    The voice on the other line said, "Would you hold the line please, that's a very unusual request." Then a very authoritative voice came on and said, "Are you the lady who is calling about one of the patients?"
    She said, "Yes, darling! I'd like to know the information about Sarah Finkel in Room 302."
    He said, "Finkel. Finkel. Let me see. Farber, Feinberg... Finkel. Oh yes, Mrs. Finkel is doing very well. In fact, she's had two full meals, and her doctor says if she continues improving as she is he is going to send her home today at twelve o'clock."
    The woman said, "Thank God! That's wonderful! She's going home at twelve o'clock! I'm so happy to hear that. That's wonderful news."
    "From your enthusiasm," the man on the other end said, "I take it you must be a close family member."
    She said, "What close family? I'm Sarah Finkel! My doctor doesn't tell me anything."

The Doctor will See You Now, from Joke Crazy, which is really on a roll this week.

A patient went into the doctor's office feeling in a great hurry to talk with the doctor. When the receptionist asked about the problem the patient said he thought he was invisible.
    The receptionist told the patient she would have to check with the doctor to see if they would be able to squeeze him in or not.
    When the receptionist told the doctor about the strange condition of the patient, the doctor took a look at his watch, thought for a couple of seconds, and said, "Tell him I can't see him."

Send me your favorite joke, funny story, or amusing picture, as long as it is related to mental illness. Keep it upbeat, please! Jokes involving mental illness are welcome, but jokes that demean mental illness are not. If it's appropriate, I'll put it up on the humor page.

Book News: The National Indie Excellence Awards

I am pleased to announce that  Medicines for Mental Health has been declared a finalist in the Medical category of the National Indie Excellence Awards, for the year 2008. The NIEA holds an annual competition designed to champion independent publishers and authors. Authors and publishers submit books for review in numerous fiction and non-fiction categories. Books selected for finalist or winner status this year were announced to the national media at Book Expo America, on May 30.

Recognition as an "Indie winner" is a big deal in the independent publishing industry, so the selection of Medicines for Mental Health as one of three finalists in the Medical category is big news!

I frankly did not expect this development. Medicines is a layman's reference guide to psychiatric medication. It is a useful book, bit it does not pack the drama of personal narratives more commonly published for a popular audience. (Indeed, my scan of the 2008 results page shows that it is the only reference book listed.) So the fact that the reviewers nominated Medicines as a finalist is all the more remarkable, and I am very pleased to announce the news here.

Is Therapy for Me?

by Elaine Luddy Klonicki

Research shows that psychotherapy works well for emotional problems, and it can improve your overall health status, but many people are held back from utilizing it by a fear of the unknown. How do you know if you need to go? What will be expected of you? For most people, just thinking about going for professional help can be both anxiety-provoking and intimidating.

Only you can decide if therapy is the best way to deal with your problems. There are other options. Should you take medication, read self-help books, take classes, or try an exercise program to reduce your stress level? Should you instead turn to a close family member or friend or an esteemed clergy person? There are many factors to consider such as how much you are suffering, how long you've had the problem, and how much time, energy, and money you have to invest in yourself. Some people seek therapy to "nip it in the bud" and others wait until they've exhausted every other avenue and turn to it "as a last resort." You will want to consider your decision carefully; your own well-being is at stake.

How do I know if I need to go to a therapist?

Most psychological sources agree on the symptoms which indicate possible mental illness and the need for immediate treatment. The American Psychiatric Association Web site lists the warning signs of mental illness, the difference between the types of mental health providers, and suggestions for choosing therapists. But what about the vast majority of us who are not mentally ill, but are suffering nonetheless? Does everyone who is depressed, anxious, overwhelmed with relationship problems, or in a current crisis need therapy? In these cases, the guidelines are not as clear-cut. It may be helpful to think of therapists as being similar to other consultants, such as financial analysts, who provide professional services. Obviously some people really need their help and others seem to have no need. Everyone else falls somewhere between on that continuum. Most of us, at one time or another, could live more effectively if we adjusted our thinking and behaviors, and therapists are trained to help us learn to do that.

Some common reasons that people seek help:
According to the December 1999 Surgeon General's report on mental health, a total of fifteen percent of the U.S. population use mental health services in any given year. If you are thinking about therapy, you are probably experiencing one of three things: 1) stress due to a particular situation in your life, 2) on-going difficulties related to your personality or behavior, or 3) emotional or physical symptoms.

Dealing With Situational Stress (Crisis)

Sometimes when a crisis occurs, it can overwhelm you and throw you so far out of sync that you have a hard time coming to grips with it. The death of a loved one, the loss of a significant relationship, severe health problems, or a job layoff can hit you so hard that you can't seem to bounce back. Transitions can trigger emotional responses in you that have been long buried, and feelings of anger or abandonment can quickly rise to the surface. You may find yourself crying all the time or unable to eat. Therapy can provide a safe place in which you can explore these feelings and try to make sense of them in order to move on with your life.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychologist who specializes in issues related to death and dying, explains that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It takes time and support from others in order to move from one stage to the next until you finally reach acceptance of the event. The goal of grief therapy is to promote acceptance of your loss and a positive outlook for the future.

Changing Ineffective Behaviors (Personality Difficulties)

While some events arise suddenly and unexpectedly, other situations evolve more slowly. You may have one bad relationship after another or be unable to figure out why you can't reach your goals. You may begin to exercise to excess or use alcohol or food to distract yourself from the pain. Eventually the frustration level builds until you  decide to seek some help. In this case, therapy may help you to realize that your own choices and behaviors may be contributing to the difficulties you are encountering. As you realize how your past has affected your present situation, you begin to understand that you can choose your future.

This is the reason that people often stay in therapy long after the original problem has been solved, and why they can sometimes even enjoy therapy. It is heady stuff, this knowledge that you can control at least some of the outcomes in your life. Of course you know from experience that changing your own behavior is easier said than done. Although early in your therapy you may be convinced about taking charge of your life, the rest of therapy involves learning the tools and techniques to help you do that.

Relieving Depression or Anxiety (Symptoms)

Sometimes you don't have a specific problem in your life; you just don't feel happy, and you're not sure why. You feel unmotivated, disconnected from other people, and unsure of the meaning of your life. You don't know how to begin to figure out who you are and what you need to do in order to feel better. It may even be difficult to begin therapy because you don't have a specific crisis or problem to point to for your dissatisfaction. In this situation therapy might provide you with structured time for introspection. You might discover that talking about-or even thinking about-feelings is especially difficult for you and may need medication either at the start of therapy or in conjunction with therapy.

Many of us were taught that we're supposed to be tough, to handle whatever comes along, and to ignore how we really feel. Maybe you were taught that all you needed to rely on was yourself and your logic; feelings were for the weak or just got in the way. Therapy might help you to question some of your assumptions. Your therapist might explain that feelings give us information about our environment. You might learn that fear helps to keep you safe; anger helps to motivate you to change a frustrating situation; and guilt alerts you about a behavior you shouldn't repeat. Your therapist might help you to learn to deal with your feelings, no matter what they are. In therapy, as you come to believe in the purpose of feelings, you might gradually learn to stop suppressing them, and begin to feel "alive" and joyful again.

Your decision to seek therapy must be a personal one based on the intensity and duration of your emotional pain and what you've already tried in order to find relief. If you are tired of trying to solve your problems alone and have run out of ideas, or if others are beginning to suggest that you get some help, you should probably take it as a sign that you're in over your head. If you are considering therapy, I suggest that you see a therapist for an assessment, the sooner, the better. You may have to interview several therapists to find one with whom you can connect, but the investment will be worth it.

You don't have to be in severe distress before you seek help, and you don't have to commit to long-term therapy. Just go check it out. Qualified therapists are very honest about the type of help they provide and the degree to which you may benefit from their services. Your mental and emotional health are just as important as your physical health, and there is no need to suffer when effective treatment is available. Most people begin to feel more hopeful in just a few sessions, and significant results can be achieved in six months to one year. So take a deep breath, and make that first call today!

Elaine's 10 Tips for Success in Therapy

  1. Expect therapy to work!
  2. Educate yourself about the process.
  3. Follow a good plan for therapy.
  4. Interview therapists and trust your intuition about whether they are right for you.
  5. Attend sessions regularly and allow yourself time for introspection.
  6. Be open minded. You are seeking therapy because you couldn't solve the problem yourself, so it might be time to consider another point of view. Accept the help which is being offered.
  7. Be patient. Therapy takes time to work. Some changes will come slowly, and some realizations will happen overnight.
  8. Be good to yourself. Therapy is hard work.
  9. Be an assertive consumer-speak up if you have a concern.
  10. Above all, be honest with yourself. If you are not ready to change, don't waste the therapist's time.
Elaine Luddy Klonicki is the author of All on Account of You: A True WWII Love Story,  Normandy to the BulgeA Taste of Taffy, Captured Words: A Sentimental Journey, and Thinking about Therapy. Visit her Web site and blog at and

Are You Looking for Writers?

If you are looking for articles on mental-health and medication issues, for an online or printed publication, send me a note. I write for various publications, and may be able to help.

MentalMeds News -- Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Thompson
May be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided material is attributed to Kevin Thompson, Ph.D. at