Antidote exists for psychiatrists: It's called laughter

Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:

Bruce A. Hershfield, M.D., President, Maryland Psychiatri Society: Roger Simon's [column on psychiatrists] fills me with sadness. . . . Do the editors fail to see any connection between discouraging people from asking for psychiatric help when they become ill with depression (a condition that usually responds to treatment) and the high rate of suicide? . . . People die --unnecessarily -- and their families suffer tragically when they share the ignorant and harmful views, written by Mr. Simon and published, sad to say, by The Sun.


COMMENT: One thing I forgot to mention in that column about psychiatrists: They have terrific senses of humor.

... Craig Martin, Baltimore: I'm a psychiatrist; and even though I think you were trying to be funny, if you'd like to have a different kind of dinner with psychiatrists, I would like to invite you to have dinner with my wife and me.


COMMENT: I appreciate the invitation, and I appreciate your good intentions. And it's pretty gutsy of you to invite a guy home to dinner who is single-handedly responsible for the nation's suicide rate.

But I find it odd that a few years ago, when I wrote a long column defending psychiatrists, I did not hear from a single psychiatrist. When I wrote that people should not be ashamed to seek psychiatric help, I did not get a single invitation to dinner from a single shrink.

I think maybe somebody should do a case study on positive vs. negative reinforcement.

In any case, my recent column was only an attempt to adhere to the theories of William Fry, a psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who says that "laughing 100 times a day is the equivalent of strenuous rowing.

During a laugh, the body starts pumping adrenalin; the heart rate increases; the brain releases endorphins and enkephalins, natural painkillers. The lungs pump out carbon dioxide, the eyes cleanse themselves with tears and muscles relax and lose their tenseness."

In other words, everyone who got a good laugh at the expense of psychiatrists got all these benefits. And if I were a negative guy -- which I am not! -- I would suggest that psychiatrists are upset with me today because they didn't get paid for it!

Sorry. I have to take my pill now. I'll feel better soon.

... Carolyn Crittenden, Elkridge: Hurrah for Alice Frazier, the Hugger of the Queen! That lady and her gut reaction action toward Queen Elizabeth might have thrown a curve to Her Majesty, but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts (or is that a wholly outdated phrase?) that Mrs. Frazier and her friendliness was the topic of conversation at the breakfast table when the royal couple


returned home.

COMMENT: It was. Reliable sources report that as soon as the royal couple returned home, the queen turned to the prince at the breakfast table and said over her bowl of Froot Loops: "Do you remember that large, friendly woman who touched the royal personage? Do you think it would be possible to have her beheaded?"

... Harold Turkel, Baltimore: The Holocaust Memorial fence. Your point: Let's use the money intended for the fence to shelter the homeless. This is a pretty heavy issue chargedwith all kinds of feelings and emotions. We could address a lot of proposed expenditures by saying, "Let's use the money to shelter the homeless."

If we applied this across the board, our city would be a real mess. By all means let's shelter the homeless. But let's also take care of what we have downtown.

Maybe the Holocaust Memorial is a good thing and maybe not. But it is there, it means a lot to many people, it is part of our city and it should be protected.

COMMENT: The problem: Homeless people are sleeping on the memorial and using it as a restroom because they have no place to sleep and no sanitary facilities. One suggested solution: Fence the memorial.


However, as this is a Holocaust memorial, I can't think of a worse symbol than a fence.

think it would remind many people of that heartbreaking Margaret Bourke-White photograph taken the day after the liberation of Buchenwald of the camp survivors staring out through a fence.

Public areas of Baltimore should be "protected," but how better, kinder and more humane an act it would be to attempt to solve this problemby helping the homeless rather than by just fencing them out as if they were garden pests.

But let's be realistic. We know what's going to happen. The police, responding to community pressure, are going to roust the homeless from the memorial area and force them to some other area.

And then everybody can congratulate one another and declare that the problem has been "solved."

... Arnold Isenberg, Havre de Grace: When the five World War II torpedo bombers recently discovered off Florida were determined not to be the famous Flight 19, but another five that no one even seemed to know were missing, the media failed to report that these aircraft were not, in fact, in the Bermuda Triangle, but in the less-well-known Bermuda Trapezoid, where things sometimes miraculously appear that had not been lost or had been lost somewhere else.


COMMENT: OK, Arnold, now would you please step up to the chalkboard and diagram that sentence for the class?

Rae Miller Heneson, Baltimore: Baseball is definitely not my cup of Sanka. But I went to my first game at the age of 60 (12 years ago) at the invitation of a wonderful, handicapped young man who died at 17.

He had Rick Dempsey hug and kiss me for my birthday! It was great. But I never went to another game.

COMMENT: And Rick Dempsey, fruitlessly scanning the stands each day for another glimpse of you, finally gave up after the 1986 season and left town. First he moved to Cleveland and then to Los Angeles and then to Milwaukee, where he searches endlessly, endlessly for the one woman who stole his heart and then crushed his spirit.

You could have at least called.