Michelle Rupp: Thank you for joining us today on AFMC TV. We are tackling the subject of suicide prevention. September is suicide prevention and awareness month. Today’s episode is dedicated to all things mental health, as well as suicide prevention. So, we thank you for joining us this morning. We’re going to start with Ken Clark with Chenal Family Therapy. Ken is one of our good friends out in West Little Rock. Ken, let me start by well, first, thanks for joining us on today’s show.

Ken Clark: Thanks for having me. It’s such an important topic. So, so cool to see being talked about.

MR: Absolutely. You know, mental health is a huge topic these days, and I think it’s perhaps it’s more prevalent now than it’s ever been. There’s so much awareness around mental health. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing in your office?

KC: Yeah, well, some of its regional, right? I was trained in California, and it seems like the mid-south has really discovered mental health in the last 10 or 20 years. And so number one, we’re seeing a lot of people wander into a therapist office or psychiatrist office for the first time in their lives for the first time, maybe in their family history that they know about. One trend is we’re seeing a lot of people discover how great this is how the stigma doesn’t match up to the value. It really is so valuable for so many people. So, in a positive sense, we’re seeing more people ask about it and ask for help in conversation than we ever have. Amid COVID, in particular, we see some trends, things like alcohol use and substance abuse kind of go through the roof. It turns out when you’re sitting around all day as opposed to going to work, it’s a little easier to get into your stash or whatever. And so, we’re seeing some pretty substantial problems coming out of COVID, a lot of anxiety and depression and even PTSD, kind of post-traumatic stress disorder with the first time the world kind of shut down and we thought we were getting out of it now, it seems to be shut down again. And there’s a lot of panic around that. We’re even seeing some interesting stuff like folks that are going back to the office that thought they couldn’t wait to get out of the house and go back to school or whatever. There was a certain slowness to be at home, to be with family, to finally getting to sit down and have a meal with the people you love. There’s a lot of grief for people as life restarts. So many trends, a lot of feelings. I would tell you the most significant trend is everybody’s in the feels somehow about something, and again, yeah, people are finally taking the initiative to talk about it.

MR: I know just how much it helps just to have that person that you can just get it off your chest. You may not necessarily be looking for an answer, but just someone that you can talk to.

KC: Oh yeah. You know, I think we don’t give enough credit to the fact that we do all this thinking in our head that never comes out of our mouth, you know? And it could be talking to your dog, but a trained therapist is probably better or a good friend. But the reality is when we have to think about something and move it to words, and we hear ourselves as we say it, there’s a whole different level of processing that occurs when we talk with somebody. Just hearing ourselves talk is one of the huge values are going to therapy. That’s before they give you any wise words or valuable tools. But then, on top of that, one of the big things I love about what we do as a field is what we call normalization or universality. When you’re sitting in there, and the therapist looks at you and says, huh? Sounds like 100 other people that I’m seeing right now, and you’re like, oh my gosh, it’s not just me. You know, and you realize you’re not uniquely broken, but this is actually what makes you human, and like everybody else you bump into. So, between those two, getting to hear yourself talk and process in a different way and the normalization of it all that a good therapist or a good friend or mentor can provide. So valuable.

MR: So, if I hear you correctly if we are talking to ourselves, we aren’t crazy.

KC: No, you’re not. I don’t think you’re not crazy. But unchallenged beliefs become unchallenged facts. Unchallenged fears become unchallenged facts. These things that bounce around in our head that never see the light of day. They win by default. You know, it’s like the other team not showing up for the match. It’s a forfeit. So, when we discuss with other people what’s going on? We open ourselves up to the possibility that the way I see things, what I think is going on, the way I think I’m valued or not valued, might be distortions. There might be voices that we carry into adult life from our childhood or whatever. So, there’s a huge value to those thoughts seeing the light of day.

MR: Absolutely. I’m curious what advice would you offer anyone who may be struggling? That sees this interview.

KC: Well, one, find somebody to talk to, period. Being alone is the worst human condition, right? I think there is. I don’t care if you’re talking to a friend at work or talking to a neighbor, or talking to a therapist. Again, you need to realize that alone, nothing can be challenged or helped. So, um, talk to somebody. There are a ton of amazing therapists in any state that you live in that are now accessible even by telemedicine and video and all these things that are innovations. So, you shouldn’t let your geography limit you. In fact, anonymity, the ability to see somebody you’re not going to run into at the grocery store, has gone through the roof. And so, what I would tell you is reach out, go to google, type in therapist, type in the part of the state or the town you’re in. And what I really encourage you is that therapists are like shoes, right? You got to try them on. If you go to therapy two or three times with somebody and it’s not clicking, switch therapists. I’m loud. I’m gregarious. I’m kind of in your face. Some people really love that, some people that’s traumatizing for, so don’t be afraid to find somebody else to talk to. If the person you’re talking to isn’t getting you the help that you need. It’s, it’s not their fault or your fault. It’s just not a good fit. So, keep trying until you find that person where you’re like, finally, somebody I can talk to.

MR: All right, Ken Clark from Chenal Family Therapy. Thank you so much!  We appreciate it. We appreciate your insight and thank you for joining us.

KC: We love AFMC. Thanks for all you’re doing.