THE FIRST TO GO was Arnold. There was trouble with Barbara, his girlfriend, and then he couldn't fall asleep at night and, to tell you the truth, nothing had been going well since his operation for a deviated septum - the hom de scapel in those days for a nose job. He had gotten out of the hospital bed immediately after the operation andhad seen himself in the mirror and, while it may be wrong to date everything from that moment, the fact is that he was never the same. He was in the first to admit seeinga psychiatrist.

Later, lots of us talked about going. We all had our reasons, some good and some silly, but it really didn't matter. We were in college and there were programs galore where you could go and talk your head off to some grad student in psychology and be assured that somewhere, somehow, all this was being monitored by a real psychologist with real experience. Not that it mattered much. It was just to talk to someone.

Back then, guys like Arnold boasted of their treatment or theorpy or whatever it was. Back then he would not have understood Peter Bourne and his stated desire to protect the name of a young woman with alleged emotional problems. Back then, neurosis was as chic as Ferrier water is now and it was worn out in the open, like battle ribbons. It showed, among other things, that we had lived, really lived. We gloried in it, wallowed in it, read about it, talked about it, and blamed our parents for it. God have pity on them, for we did not.

Now, of course, Peter Bourne is taking it on the chin for what he has done and to a certain extends he is getting what he deserves. He prescribed pills for a person, who does not exist and that, the law appears to say, is wrong. He did this while serving on the White House staff, while being, as the current redundancy would have it, a close, personal friend of the president, and he did it, really, for no good reason at all. He is not, after all, the only shrink in Washington, not even the only doctor, in the White House. This is one buck he could have passed.

All this brings us to the case of Richard S. Morey. Some years ago, Morey, a lawyer, and his wife went to their minister in an effort to save their floudering marriage. The minister, lacking time and, one supposes, credentials, advised them to see a psychiatrist. Morey says they did just that, he continuing and his wife dropping out, taking their marriage with it. They were divorced, but Morey stayed with the shrink, eventually finishing his treatment. Later, he started to see a clinical psychologist, thinking of this as something of a self-improvement program - something that would help him in his relationship with women and his own children. What makes this a case rather than just a yarn is that Morey stated all this on an insurance application form. As a result, his application was turned down.

Morey complained to the Maryland state insurance commissioner that he was denied disability income insurance - money he would get if he was unable to work - on the grounds that, as the complaint says, he "has been and is undergoing treatment for emotional problems." A hearing was held and another is scheduled, but suffice it to say that the insurance industry and spokesman for psychologists are having a differnce of opinion. The insurance industry says it has data to support the contention that people like Morey are bad risks. The Maryland Psychological Association Inc says, on the contrary, the date indicates just the opposite. As for Morey, he says he's missed maybe a day or two of work in the last several years - colds and flu and that sort of thing.

Then point here is not to settle then argument between Morey and his insurance company, but merely to point out that this sort of thing is a problem - a problem recognized by psychiatrists and psychologists. In the public mind, or at least in the minds of many, to admit to having once had emotional problems is tantamount to admitting you're unstable, someone who will hit the floor at the first signs of pressure, assume the fetal position and stay that way until at least the beginning of rush hour.

Now we get back to Bourne and what he did - at least what he said he did. To many, it smacked of an excuse, a facile lie. If Bourne is telling the truth, there is one person who knows what Bourne was trying to do - Richard Morey. A conversation with him was enough to make me want to find my old friend Arnold and give him some advice: For your own sake, keep your mouth shut.