“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

This is the first line of a song by Noel Coward.

Out of sight, out of mind
is a saying meaning that if you can’t see something you are unlikely to think about it.  I find that this is true, so I like to give myself visual reminders to do a task – a list, or a pie dish left out, for instance.  This post gathers together expressions which have been used in the past about people with mental health problems or who were considered to be eccentric.

Are you out of your mind?
Out of your mind means mad (or crazy).  Someone may have just voice a new idea or suggested a risky scheme.

Going through a bad patch is a generalisation.  It could be health problems of any kind, marital problems, unemployment or any other difficulty in life.

As mad as a hatter is a popular simile.  The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland represented hat-makers who had been exposed to compounds containing mercury, which affected their brains.

Driven to distraction describes what sometimes happens if someone already has lots of different things to do and people are pestering them to do other things all at the same time.  They are distracted from what they are doing and cannot concentrate on anything.

I don’t know whether I’m coming or going is a usual reaction to these circumstances.

Give me strength might be a prayer for the ability to cope.  A church building in the Midlands has these words displayed in large letters.  It has been converted into a  ‘fitness and tanning’ business!

Going spare
has a literal meaning of being surplus to requirements, but also means at the end of one’s tether. (See What are you worrying about?)

Off one’s trolley means mentally derailed.

Doolally (from Deolali, a town in India) and
Doolally tap  means insane or irrational.  The derivation, which I looked up in The Dictionary of Modern Phrase by Graeme Donald, is that British troops arriving in this town at the wrong time of year had to wait up to 6 months for transport home.  Tap means fever in Hindustani and those who spent the time in drunkenness and other unprofitable behaviour were said to have caught Deolali tap.

Tapping one’s head is a way of indicating that someone may be mad.  Perhaps it comes from the expression above.

There’s method in my madness.
Other people may not be able to see the sense in what I am doing, but there is a reason for it.

Are you deaf or are you daft?
How many people have been asked this as children?  If you haven’t heard the instructions you have an excuse for not following them, but if you haven’t understood them…
…I think there are better ways of dealing with this kind of situation, but the question is probably meant to be light-hearted.  Deafness and mental incapacity are both mostly invisible disabilities.

Don’t mock the afflicted!
There are some very unkind jokes about disabled (or the older term handicapped) people.  My parents banned them with this remark.

She’s got a bee in her bonnet.
Not many people wear bonnets nowadays, but many are afraid of bees.  Panicking and rushing around makes you more likely to be stung.  The saying is about someone with a particular enthusiasm or obsession.  (Mine’s blogging!)

As nutty as a fruitcake
is a synonym about madness and bananas is a metaphor as are having a screw loose, a loose slate or bats in the belfry.
A belfry is another name for a bell-tower.  If there were bats there it might prevent the bells, being rung as bats are protected species!

Crackers, crackpot, loony (from lunatic) and stark raving mad are all derogatory terms.

Understanding of mental health is improving.  There is a useful website here.

The Gospel of Mark Chapter 5  verses 1-20 tells the story of how after Jesus had healed a man he was clothed and in his right mind”.

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