Tag Archives: black psych ward humour

Black Psych Ward Humour: Songs

My spirits need a lift this evening, so I’ve taken the top 10 songs from JJJ’s Hottest 100 and had a bit of fun. The original song titles are on the left, the ‘tweaked’ ones on the right. Please feel free to add your contributions in the comments section below:

1. Riptide Downslide
2. Royals Doctors
3. Get Lucky Got Unlucky
4. Do I Wanna Know? I Don’t Wanna Know
5. Drop The Game What’s My Name?
6. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re Low?
7. Young and Beautiful Split and Bountiful
8. Resolution Desolation
9. Is This How You Feel? Is This How You Really Feel?
10. Strong Not So Strong


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Black Psych Ward Humour: TV Shows

Just back from visiting a friend in hospital, where we entertained ourselves coming up with psych-ward-flavoured TV show names. I’ve had some time on the way home to enlarge the list. Enjoy! And please feel free to add your own shows in the comments section below:

  • Desperate Inpatients
  • Crazy Housewives
  • Perfect Zap
  • My Ward Rules
  • The Biggest Crazy
  • Home is Away
  • Neighbours Roommates
  • Who Wants To Be An Outpatient?
  • Wheel of Medications
  • The Good Nurse
  • CSI: Kitchenette
  • Law and Order: ICU
  • A Current Affair
  • Scooby Dopamine
  • Happy Days 
  • Doctor Where-are-you
  • Star Trek: Introspection 
  • Two and a Half Xanax
  • CHarmed
  • Sedation Street
  • Med Key Hunters


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Self-knowledge: a joke?

I think a good paper in fundamental physics shares some characteristics with a good joke: it has an unexpected take on a familiar idea, and yet in retrospect it has a certain screwball inevitability. (Benjamin Schumacher, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio)

As I read this quote, it struck me that self-knowledge also shares some of these characteristics. That’s been my experience, anyway.

One way our mischievous minds make themselves known to us is through the good old Freudian slip. My favourite is when you accidentally substitute one person’s name for another. Afterwards, I’ll think: what was it that induced that switch? I learnt this technique from a therapist some years ago, when I substituted the name of one professional for another. My therapist asked me to describe the person whose name I’d spoken and I used words like “tall”, “ineffectual” and “misguided”. The first was a physical characteristic which obviously linked the two, but as it turned out I realized my opinion of the person I’d originally been talking about was also quite low, although it was difficult for me to allow myself to think this at the time, because he was so highly respected in his field.

Another way is through the words which seem to pop out of our mouths during conversation. “I could’ve killed her,” we laugh – but then I think: OK, you’re laughing, but do you actually feel quite angry towards her? “I just want to eat you all up!” we chortle into a toddler’s belly – but are we perhaps objectifying the little child, seeing her as an object for our enjoyment? Or are our feelings of pleasure deeply entwined with our enjoyment of food? Sometimes the answer will be “No! You’re overanalyzing things” – but at other times, the analysis can yield interesting results.

Like Schumacher’s take on a good theoretical physics paper, both examples take an everyday twist of language and use it to reveal something unexpected about ourselves. It’s as though our language is like a piece of glass, turning in the air, and casting a rainbow on the far wall.

My therapy sessions are often punctuated with laughter as we notice what word I’ve used, what allusion I’ve drawn. “Did you notice that I couldn’t think of his name for a moment there?” I smile, as we’re talking about someone who’s hurt me in the past. Or my therapist will raise an eyebrow: “Dying for it?”

This week, I’ve really enjoyed hearing about Canada’s “Let’s Talk” day from earlier this week. It’s been wonderful to read so many people’s accounts of stigma and the language we use to describe and talk about mental illness. What I am saying in this post is that we can take the language we use to talk about ourselves and use it to gain self-knowledge … and sometimes laugh at ourselves in the process.


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Medication Queue Blues

A little-known terror of the psychiatric inpatient system is the medication queue.

Imagine a group of mentally unwell people arriving at an inadequate row of plastic chairs in no particular order to wait for their personal medications to be dispensed through one of three glass windows, as the patients step up to a window, in order of arrival. Can anyone else see a problem with this?

It’s actually quite amazing that the ‘system’, such as it is, works so well. In all my hospitalizations, I’ve only ever seen or heard two blow-ups at medication time related to the queue system.

I’d better define some terms first. I’m talking about adult wards in private psychiatric clinics in Australia. All admissions are voluntary, and patients with more extreme problems are either in an intensive care unit or at a different type of hospital which can cater to their needs.

Some people take the medications queue in their stride, but I once brought it up in group therapy, and there was a general agreement that it’s a fairly stressful situation (all bar one extroverted and highly confident patient who couldn’t see what we were going on about). Because people arrive in dribs and drabs, there’s no order to the queue – so somehow you must remember who was there before you. I do it by counting heads. The problem with my method is that it doesn’t identify who’s still waiting, so if, say, the person immediately ahead of you in the queue forgets their place, there’s this awkward holdup while everyone says: “Were you next?” “Not me, I think it was you.” “Who, me?” [Yes, you. Just go to the window and get your fucking meds so the rest of us can move along.]

During the group therapy session in which I raised the topic, one brave soul suggested numbering the seats from left to right, and having people sit down in order and move along. A few problems were identified:

a) people are always being admitted to and discharged from the ward, so the new-though-sensible rules would need to be continually explained

b) some people bring knitting or other craft projects to keep them occupied while they wait, and won’t want to move seats

c) for some reason, no matter which hospital it is, there never seem to be sufficient seats

d) come on, we’re talking psych patients here! Are they really going to follow the rules?

Look, perhaps it’s just my anxiety talking, but it seems a minor miracle that the medication queue works at all. As a psychiatrist said to me once, with all these unwell people living in close quarters, it’s amazing we don’t have more disruptions.

Do you have a psych hospital bugbear? A story of systems which somehow hang together?


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Black Psych Ward Humour: Lightbulbs

How many Clinical Coordinators does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. That’s what student nurses and graduate nurses are for.

How many clinical psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Well, they’ll be able to change it quickly and efficiently, once they’ve figured out the correct DSM-V diagnosis. Until then, how do we know it needs changing?

How many Unit Managers does it take to change a lightbulb?

None: no lightbulb is going to stop working on my shift. (lightbulb quivers fearfully)

How many Nursing Shift Supervisors does it take to change a lightbulb?

It depends on the amount of paperwork waiting to be done: little, and they’ll do it; heaps, you’ve got no chance.

How many hospital maintenance staff does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one, but they can only do it once they’ve received the correct work order in triplicate signed and countersigned by the appropriate authorities, three days in advance. (Or immediately, if they’re bribed with chocolate.)

How many group therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Group therapy doesn’t change anything.

How many psychotherapists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

One, provided the lightbulb is fully compliant with all components of treatment. Otherwise, it’s the lightbulb’s fault that it doesn’t get changed.

How many depressed psych patients does it take to change a lightbulb?

Who cares?

How many manic psych patients does it take to change a lightbulb?

One. No, two, because I can’t hold the ladder and climb it myself. Actually, three, because if two people lift me up on a chair, we won’t need to fetch the ladder, but the other two will have to be really strong people. Or perhaps four – we could make a special Lightbulb Changing Device from matchsticks in the Art Room. But we’ll need five, so one can [response cut short here]

How many bipolar psych patients does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two: one to rise up the ladder, and one to stay stuck at the bottom.

How many psych nurses does it take to change a lightbulb?

If you get the right psych nurse, just one, who’ll say  just the right thing at just the right time, and the lightbulb will virtually change itself.


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