MentalMeds News
A Newsletter from
Issue 7

Dear Reader,

In my last newsletter, I mentioned the decision by the National Indie Excellence Awards to name Medicines for Mental Health a finalist for 2008. This was exciting for me personally, but I wondered what practical effects it would have.

Well, now I know. June book sales set a new record! Very good news indeed.

If you are reading this newsletter, odds are good that you know something useful or interesting about mental illness, and how to cope with it. Why not share your knowledge with the hundreds of people who receive this newsletter? I am always looking for new contributors, and would love to have more submissions from readers. So if you have been thinking about writing an article some day, the time has arrived to turn "some day" into "today!" Send me your article, and have your say in the next issue!

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.

The Mental Hospital Phone Menu, from Elaine

Hello and thank you for calling The State Mental Hospital. Please select from the following options menu:

Just Who is the Crazy Person? from Rich

I was walking past the mental hospital the other day and all the patients were chanting and shouting,

    "Thirteen!  Thirteen!  Thirteen!  Thirteen!  Thirteen! Thirteen . . ."

    I was curious to see what they were so excited about, but the fence was too high to see over. Then I saw a little gap in the planks and looked through to see what was going on.
    Some idiot poked me in the eye with a stick, and they all started shouting,

    "Fourteen!  Fourteen!  Fourteen!  Fourteen!  Fourteen!..."

The Psychiatrist and Proctologist, from Michelle

Two doctors, a psychiatrist and a proctologist, opened an office in a small town and put up a sign reading: "Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones: Hysterias and Posteriors."
    The town council was not happy with the sign, so the doctors changed it to read, "Schizoids and Hemorrhoids."
    This was not acceptable either, so in an effort to satisfy the council, they changed the sign to "Catatonics and High Colonics." No go.
    Next, they tried "Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives." Thumbs down again.
    Then came "Minds and Behinds." Still no good.
    Another attempt resulted in "Lost Souls and Butt Holes." Unacceptable again!
    So they tried "Analysis and Anal Cysts." Not a chance.
    "Nuts and Butts?" No way.
    "Freaks and Cheeks?" Still no go.
    "Loons and Moons?" Forget it.

    Almost at their wit's end, the doctors finally came up with: "Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones, Odds and Ends."

    Everyone loved it.

A Catholic Boy's Confession, from Grace

A little Italian kid goes to confession.

    "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl."
    The priest asks, "Is that you, little Joey Pagano?"
    "Yes, Father, it is."
    "And who was the girl you were with?"
    "I can't tell you, Father, I don't want to ruin her reputation."
    "Well, Joey, I'm sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?"
    "I cannot say."
    "Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?"
    "I'll never tell."
    "Was it Nina Capelli?"
    "I'm sorry, but I cannot name her."
    "Was it Cathy Piriano?"
    "My lips are sealed."
    "Was it Rosa Di Angelo, then?"
    "Please, Father, I cannot tell you."

    The priest sighs in frustration. "You're very tight lipped; Joey Pagano and I admire that. But you've sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for four months. Now you go and behave yourself."
    Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, "What'd you get?"
    "Four months' vacation and five good leads." 

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.

Why won't they Believe I'm Ill?

by Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.

Why are some people dismayed to learn that a friend takes medication for a mental illness, saying, "It's all in your head?" The expression is disdainful, because it implies a lack of willpower or toughness. The question that should be asked is not whether the illness is real, but what is the most effective combination of willpower, therapy, and medication for treating it.
    The volume of debate over how to deal with mental illness depends on how severe and exotic the symptoms are.
    Debate is less intense intense when symptoms are exotic, meaning of a type that most people never experience. Hallucinations, for example, are understood by most to stem from abnormalities in the brain. Whether the patient can cope with such symptoms well enough without medication is something that depends on their severity, but there is a general understanding that one cannot make hallucinations vanish through willpower or talk therapy.
    Debate is more intense when the symptoms sound familiar. Someone who suffers from depression or mania can describe his symptoms in terms that seem familiar. Everyone can relate to "feeling sad" or "feeling hyper," so there is a natural tendency for the listener to assume that he understands how the other person feels. This belief can lead to thoughts such as, "Hey, I feel like that sometimes, and I don't take drugs. If I can deal with it, he should be able to deal with it. He shouldn't need drugs."
    What the listener in this example does not realize is this: It is impossible to imagine an emotional state that you cannot experience.

    Let me repeat that: It is impossible to imagine an emotional state that you cannot experience.

    That simple statement is profoundly important. We understand another person's emotions by comparing them to our own. We have a "gut feel" about what it means to be happy or sad, which works well enough in most situations. Yet the reality is that Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder produce emotional states that do not exist in normal human experience. Someone who does not suffer from such an illness truly cannot understand what it is like.
    So here is the answer to the question I posed above: People who treat mental illness dismissively do so because

    A) They are not capable of understanding it in terms of their own experience
    B) They are not willing to put aside their prejudices and transcend the limitations of their "gut feel" by studying the subject

    Sadly, the belief that the skeptical listener does understand what the sufferer feels can have a serious impact. The impact can range from friction, to the destruction of friendships, to creating insurmountable barriers to treatment.
    The moral to this story is that people who suffer from serious mental illness bear the burden of coping with disbelief and obstruction from friends, family, and employers, as well as the illness itself. They are well advised to exercise discretion in disclosing the details of their illness, to educate themselves about their needs, and to refuse to let ignorance and prejudice interfere with their treatment.

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