Friday, May 01, 2009

Psycho Donuts. Really?

Does my funny bone need retooling?

Psycho Donuts says that they "have taken donuts to the next demented level. We bid a fond farewell to the tired, round ring of lameness, and the drab, time-weathered environment of donut past. Psycho Donuts has taken the neighborhood donut and put it on medication, and given it shock treatment."

I know it's hard to succeed in business, and offering customers something offbeat or avant-garde can boost sales, but why choose this theme? Counter staff in psychiatric nurse's outfits. A padded cell exhibit. Donut names like Psycho, Bipolar and Manic Malt.

Psycho Donuts admits that they are making light of the subject of mental illness and offered charitable support to
NARSAD - and the donuts, I'm told, are delicious.

But this just feels like all kinds of wrong to me.

Update: NARSAD acting president Joel Gurin returned the charitable donation, writing in a letter:  “While you may not realize it, your store embodies the reasons that so many people with mental illness don’t want to admit their problem.”  


STAG said...

People are afraid of the unknown. This might make it a little more acceptable to people whose only experience with mental illness is Hanibal Lector, Nurse Rachett and the Arkham Asylum.

Or it might not.

Laughter is always in response to pain and fear. It is always hard to have one's life work mocked, which is probably why it hit your funny bone. There is always a guilty edge to most humour.

But what do we see mocked? All the stereotypes and wrong headed things have the mickey taken out of them. Not the good stuff. The success stories.

I'll leave my jury hung for now, and see what your much more knowledgable regular posters say about it. (Me, I find it hilarious, but I would not invest money in such a venture.)

Dr. Deb said...

Hey Stag,

I totally get your comment. Sometimes I think I'm too serious and I take this issue to heart. I can appreciate the kitschy tone of this business. I think if they didn't have the padded cell, I'd be more inclined to laugh with it than loathe it. I've worked in locked wards and those who reside there - and those who love them - really struggle with so much pain, suffering and stigma.

Beth said...

I can completed understand why you take these things seriously, particularly given your line of work and some of the cases you must have seen over time.

I think for many people, they use jokes and laughter as a way of dealing with the harder things in life - this topic in particular definitely being one of them.

I must admit, the donuts do look divine (especially the one with pretzels on the top!) and I think that if they're offering support to charity in the field, they obviously have a degree of awareness of the severity of the situation.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Galgenhumor ("gallows humour") is sometimes the best kind.

Euphemism and political correctness--so tiresome, and ultimately futile. By euphemizing things, we ultimately stigmatize them.

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, a cretin is just as stupid, and a lunatic just as crazy.

Dr. Deb said...


I think that donut looks great too. And I do appreciate that they support a mental health charity. But here's the thing for me:

Does does giving to charity give one permission to mock and use poor humor toward the very thing they support? If I give to the Shoah Foundation can I poke fun at the holocaust by having my staff wear Nazi garb and take donuts out of "gas ovens". If I support the Special Olympics can I serve donuts and call them "The Retard" or "The Spaz". Just seems wrong to me.

Okay, all this talk of donuts got my sweet tooth going. I am going to snack on the Kit Kat bar I bought yesterday.

Dr. Deb said...

I can be politcally incorrect, but there's a line I don't cross. I get what you are saying though.

Deb said...

For me, being that I have anxiety disorder, depression and OCD, I love to make light of my wackiness - as I would call it for myself. I think it gives people "permission" to be who they are. I'm not sure if I find it offensive, or just a play on the psychosis of it all. I can see why you are sensitive to it, being that you are in the field. It's a touchy subject for many, but for me, who is dealing with some issues, I kind of enjoy the lightness of it all. I hope that makes sense somewhat. If we can't laugh at "ourselves", being "me", then it would be a depressing world...literally.

Anonymous said...

NARSAD has returned the donation to Psycho Donuts. Opposing Psycho Donuts is not being pc. When you have a shop called Psycho Donuts and you have donuts called Bipolar and Massive Head Trauma, you are implying that people with these disorders are psycho when they are not.

A new website has been started to expose Psycho Donuts and any other organization that stigmatizes the mentally ill. The site uses the name psycho donuts to fight fire with fire.

OHN said...

The place may not be politically correct but did you get a look at the donuts? They are my PMSing nirvana. :)

Dr. Deb said...

You make perfect sense to me.

Thanks for the link. I read the article and it echoes much of what I feel. Even down to some examples that would be cringe-worthy as a donut shoppe.

The donuts really look tasty. Couldn't they be called other things though and still offer the same deliciousness factor.

Xmichra said...

hmm. while I am with you on this one (sensitive about it), if you look at other names of other branches of donuts.. there are some similarities, just not to psychiatrics. Things like 'pure sin brownies' 'eskimo pies' and 'sugar raised munchkin' are names of treats where others could find alot to be upset over. Albeit, it's not a whole franchise, and i think that might be where *the line* is for me at least.

plus, do you really want co-workers in your buisness because you consistantly get the psycho??

Becca said...

I've got depression and anxiety, and I've also been to a psychiatric ward before (no padded cell- not a state hospital; a lock down facility nonetheless) though I think what bothers me most is how the shop looks.

It makes me angry.

jenji said...


Thanks for the post. And now I want a donut.

Personally, I take absolutely zero offense to this place and I have bipolar disorder, as does my mother, as did my grandfather.

I think the idea and the site is in and of itself an art installation that happens to appeal to your sweet tooth. The padded cell, the artwork is all installation. And yes, i suppose it does play upon stereotypes, but I think it's meant to in a more cinematic way. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the creators is in fact a psychiatric client.

I don't think that there can be, nor should there be a required political correctness when dealing with gimick and/or humor. If you go to their website and see some of the artwork, you'll notice they pay tribute to film and so on.

I found it very creative (although I read the reviews of the shop itself and it sounds like they need to work out some quality of food kinks) and would definitely go there to stuff my face with yummy donuts. In fact, it reminded me a bit of Voodoo Donut, another place that makes my mouth water.

I don't think that Psycho Donuts would introduce stigma and stereotypes to those who don't already have said stereotypes about mental illness. Ignorance begins at home, not in a donut shop.


S'onnie said...

I don't think humour at any group of people who have a difficult issue is on. Its very easy to say that we should take life less seriously and yes we should but its very easy to say that when you are not the one with a mental health issue that is the butt of a joke... thats my 2 cents anyway :)

Casdok said...

Its just wrong to me.

CrackerLilo said...

No donut can possibly taste that good. I just don't think that pain, confusion, and terror are good ways to sell food. (Though the Chips Ahoy and Frosted Mini Wheats ads where people happily eat a talking, walking, smiling morsel seem to work. I haven't been able to eat either since those campaigns started.) I'm glad NARSAD returned the donations. Those Hollywood images are very destructive--they keep people from seeking help and add to stigma. Think I'm sticking to local mom-and-pop bakeries and, away from the city, Dunkin Donuts.

CalRima said...

As someone who knows what it means to live a transformed life - I find all of the up roar pointing to issues that have not been addressed. The views expressed are views.

Issue one: Some of the people who've had mental health issues are not comfortable with the fact that they have had (or still have) them. Stigma remains.

Issue two: The families of the people who have had (or still have) mental illness are not comfortable with discussing the issue. Some of these families are still very hurt by the situation and other people sometimes accusing them of bad parenting. Stigma & bias remains.

Issue three: There are people out there who *may* suspect they need help and won't reach out because of the biases society has around someone wanting/needing support around their mental wellness. Stigma remains.

What seems to be missing to me is society accepting everyone as they are and as they aren't. If nothing else we have an opportunity with the uproar caused by psycho donuts. The opportunity is education and get those left with stigma past that point.

There is nothing worse than having someone suffer through life because they are afraid of what their own family and friends would say to them...

The issue is not psycho donuts. The issue is with the friends and families (and some of society) of the folks with mental illness. WOW - that certainly needs to be considered for a while...

How can this wonderful spot light be used to educate people that they are biased and ill informed?

This takes finesse. See if you get this message. Consider this -- When someone walks into a room, you (& I) will turn and look at the person. Our thoughts and judgments go into effect. Our judgments based on their outward appearance. Their clothes, their hair, their shoes, their eyes and on and on. What you (& I) are doing is prejudging them - before a word comes out of our mouths or theirs. Prejudge == prejudice.

Subtle enough?

My personal desire is not to effect a change at the donuts shop. My personal desire is to impact society in such a way that these biases, stigmas and prejudices can be squashed, which will leave people accepting people as they are and as they aren't.

talesofacrazypsychmajor said...

As awful as this is that donut does look quite delicious.

Klingon Warrior Q' daH' Ryl said...

Hmm, yes, I think it is a stupid joke, and kinda mean to anybody with mental illnesses.

The one I've always hated is the liquor store in Cheyenne that is called DTs and has a pink elephant as its mascot. That just pisses me off that they who sell booze are mocking the large percentage of their customers who are alcoholics.

Dr. Davon Jacobson, MD said...

Psycho donuts really makes me feel uneasy about the whole thing. What can I say, it is just like many other businesses. They go head first into it trying to find their niche. Keep up the great work with your site and please stop by my site sometime. The url is

jumpinginpuddles said...

hmmm i thought they werent that bad, and in our twisted black humour we couldnt help but stifle a giggle. i know that goes against what others will say here, but on one of our less than great days we would probably buy a psycho donut.

Health Psych said...

I think these products help perpetuate the mental illness stereotypes.

Good for the chairman who returned the donation.

Dr. Deb said...

The great thing here is that we can respect differing opinions while looking at such issues. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments.

Battle Weary said...

When I read comments hear and elsewhere stating that this wasn't really a big deal, I thought of another idea for a donut shop. What if someone opened a donut shop called Klan donuts, or something along those lines? Donut names could be spic, wetback, coon, lynch-mob, and uncle tom, among many other possibilities. Decorate with drawings from the civil war era and a little before...dress the workers in white sheets and pointed white hats. I wonder if the same people would think that was okay too?

STAG said...

I could totally see a place like Battle Weary suggested...if it was run by a black owner. In fact, didn't they pretty much do that in the Mel Brooks movie "Blazing Saddles"?

I think it would grow pretty old pretty fast though. Its a one trick pony which really can't jump very high. Like the "Heart Attack Grill" (google it) or "Psycho Donuts", the joke wears thin rather quickly. They used to say that if you analyze a joke, it ruins it. One of the classic forms of humour is called dissonance...where you put two things together which don't really belong together...the link up results in humour. (ex. Hey, quit worrying, you'll get so many wrinkles in your forehead that you will need to screw your hat on! Hah...that guy exhibits all the brillant wit of a small soap dish.) Cute black waitresses in white pointy hats and short black klan robes WILL get a giggle because of the dissonance. It would take a Mel Brooks to turn that dissonance into a public statement, to make fun of the prejudice, whereas a lesser man would simply turn it into anger.

Comedy is a funny thing.....

RoJo's Gourmet Blog said...

I think these guys have it right and some people are just too uptight. Go in and talk to them, there is no intent of malice. The humor is light and whimsical. The theme is based on movies with a Hollywood type of atmosphere.

What is next people? Let's ban El Pollo Loco, Dave's Insanity Sauce! How about nuts? We should change that name, it might offend someone, same with bananas, I think bananas should be renamed so as not to offend anyone. Do you know that the LA county morgue has a web store that sells pillow cases with chalk outlines, and toe tags, and other kitschy crap. Maybe we should try to get them shut down. Does that not offend anyone who has had someone they know die?

Maybe we could just leave things alone and worry about truly important things. Political correctness should not be used as a tool for oppression!

Maria said...

Amen, RoJo.
BTW, Dr. Deb, can you attribute the information that the NARSAD president returned the donation? I couldn't find that anywhere. Thanks.

Dr. Deb said...

IMO, political correctness is not oppressive. What it does is enlightens others to issues and conditions that they may not be aware of. It reduces ignorance.

The letter can be read here:

willieverbefree? said...

Psycho Donuts sent one $50 donation to NARSAD and the PResident of NARSAD returned the check along with a letter - thanks but no thanks!

Anonymous said...

As the mother of a son with BP whose life has been literally stolen from him, I am outraged by Psycho Donuts. The first thing that sent me over the top is their connecting mental illness to violence i.e. cereal killer donut and a sign inside for the Bates Motel from the movie Psycho, where Anthony Perkins was a psychopathic killer; Oh and how about one of their carry out boxes that has a picture of a donut with a gun to its 'temple' and 'donut material' coming out the other side. That's funny? A sense of humor? give me a break. I worry every day that my son might decide to end his life. This is NOT a joke.

rebecca said...

Is it true we've given up the fight?

Why aren't we agreeing to debate these scumballs on TV ?????

CalRima said...

The sad truth is the people here, who claim to be advocates, seem to be people who have much pain that is completely unresolved. Anger about family members having mental health issues. Anger at a system that Can't fix them or their family member.

I don't say I agree with everything in the Psycho Donuts Shop. Some items give me concern and yet they can bring these issues out of the closet and, if done properly, educate their customers.

I deeply disagree with these so called advocates redirecting their anger at this shop. What they really could turn their attention to is a dysfunctional aspect of society - speaking about tough issues.

Many aspects of mental illness can be curbed by open communication. Hiding concerns, feelings, etc makes the issues fester.

Being someone who grew up being made to feel bad/wrong and different from the other kids - I do fully get the anger side of it.

These "advocates" approach is like the bully in playground of life.

Capitalize on the press, educate the public.

What is sad is most people don't even have a clue why this store's theme hurts peoples' feelings.

The issue is not the store, and probably not the "advocates." If that is true, what is the real issue?

I hope that my comments make some sense.

advocate for social justice said...

In the same county as Psycho Doughnuts there has been a rash of suicides involving trains. The local NAMI is getting involved. I doubt the grieving survivors find Psycho Doughnuts harmless.

James said...

Heard that Psycho Donuts is going to start a "secret menu" with even more offensive names than the names they recently publicly announced were changing for the better. Here they go again...