Sidney Freedman, “M*A*S*H” Psychiatrist

Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants, and slide on the ice. Psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman, M*A*S*H

President Obama announced last week that services for wounded warriors (including mental health programs) and military families are top priorities.

What about the availability of mental health services during the war? Have those serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan received adequate mental health services while there? Unfortunately, indications (both anecdotally and from various official reports I’ve found online) are that such services have been deficient.

Dr. Sidney Freedman (Allan Arbus) was the psychiatrist who paid regular visits to the Army hospital unit of M*A*S*H (1972-1983), the comedy/drama TV series that was set during the Korean War of the 1950’s.

His first visit to the setting, according to a fan page, was related to Klinger.

[Klinger] was aiming for a discharge (as always). After Freedman had finished the report, he quietly took Klinger in for an interview and told him that while he is obviously not mentally ill, Freedman was willing to declare him transvestite and a homosexual. This label would not leave him, as he put it: ‘From now on, you go through life on high heels.’ Klinger vociferously denied it: ‘I ain’t any of those things! I’m just crazy!’ Klinger’s discharge was uniformly dropped and Freedman left the camp.

Although I’m a fan of Freedman’s wry sense of humor, progressive politics, and ability not to be fazed by things others may consider bizarre, I do need to point out that a schizophrenia joke written for this character has probably helped perpetuate the myth that schizophrenia consists of having multiple personalities. From the scene:

Sidney Freedman: I’d like to go on talking to you, Flagg, but with your schizophrenia I’d have to charge you double time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve already kept Jesus waiting five minutes.

On the other hand, if the “Jesus” who’s waiting for Freedman is someone who actually believes he’s Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior, that someone is (probably) delusional and hence might actually have schizophrenia.

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