One of the things I love most about what I do is the wide variety of people I get to present to.
Over the last 5+ years I have spoken to thousands of people representing a great many walks of life; from high schoolers to graduate students, prisoners to police officers, and congregants to the clergy. I’ve stood in front of entry-level staff and CEOS, those who receive healthcare and healthcare providers, non-profits and for-profit, private enterprise and government at the county, state and federal level.
The last ten days have proved to be no different.
On 12/6, I led a training for the staff at the DaVita Dialysis Clinic in Sacramento.
On 12/10, I spoke to the entire student body at Foresthill High School.
On 12/11, I presented to a group of police, probation and other law enforcement officers at the Davis Police Department.
On 12/13, I co-facilitated a mental health support group with both Rabbi Reuven Taff and psychiatrist Dr. Martin Rubin.
On 12/15, I gave a talk and then led a discussion with a group of men at Spiritual Life Center.
These diverse audiences tell me the subject of mental health, and the maladies many suffer when health is replaced with a “disorder,” is top of mind in all parts of our community.
And, more important, people are looking to become more aware, more educated and more equipped.
I’ll admit when the request came in, I was a bit confused.
I wondered why on earth would a dialysis clinic want me to speak and then do training on mental health?
Well, I got educated fast.
As it turns out, those on dialysis are at high risk for mental illness, suicidal ideations, and death by suicide.
I was told the reasons for this are many:
Patients are highly dependent on treatments, and if sessions are missed, the kidneys fill up with fluids, and poisons get excreted into the body making the patient feel even worse.
The process of dialysis is physically difficult and time-consuming. Most patients spend the same amount of time in weekly dialysis as does a healthy person working a part-time job.
Patients don’t experience the benefits from treatment until later the next day. Most go home after a treatment feeling exhausted and go right to bed.
There can be profound grief at the loss of health, mobility, and independence.
Now knowing this, it makes perfect sense why this population is so at risk and why the staff was so eager for information of the origins of mental illness, how it feels to live with a mental illness, and most importantly, what can be done to help those patients dealing with any form of mental illness.
For this 90-minute training, I combined my intro talk (“Sometimes what hurts the most can’t be seen”) with my workshop on connection (“Moving from isolation to inclusion using the power of connection”).
Afterward, the staff shared how valuable the tools for creating connection (i.e., names, questions, and expressions) will be for creating and then building a connection with their patients they serve, and in doing so, help each experiences mental health.
Foresthill High School
I was given the honor of being the kick-off speaker for the school’s Mental Health Awareness Week. FHS is a smaller high school located in the town of Foresthill (about 20 miles from Auburn).
As is my custom with a new group, I gave my base speech, “Sometimes what hurts the most can’t be seen; but, sometimes what helps the most is easy to do.”.
The students were amazing, and for 40 minutes they and I were closely aligned and tightly connected as I shared my story, punctuated with both personal accounts of my journey as well as stories of some of the animals from the sanctuary.
From what I can tell, the speech was very well received, and for a 1 ½ hour afterward, I spoke with a great many students who simply wanted to share their story.
Each was seeking my support, not my advice, and the experience was a great reminder to me that the best gift I can offer to another soul is my listening.
The next morning, the school social worker, the amazing Carol Lambert, was kind enough to send along a comment from one of the students who heard the speech:
“That bald dude was a really good speaker.”
Have to say that is probably the best speech related compliment I have ever received!
Davis Police Department
To date, I have given dozens of talks to hundreds of police officers and first responders. These are one of my favorite talks to do as they give me a chance to give back to those who serve and protect us.
This particular training included a wide range of law enforcement personnel, including police officers, security staff from casinos and probation officers.
The audience was highly receptive, and I left their company filled with appreciation for the job they do.
Mosaic Law Congregation
In September of 2017, I was given the honor and rare privilege of giving the sermon on one of the Jewish High Holy days (in the case on the first day of Rosh Hashanah).
The speech tuned out to hit home with many in the audience, and from that sermon, Rabbi Taff and I established a monthly spiritual support group for mental health.
The group has now met 12 times since that talk and continues to meet on the 3rd Thursday of every month from 6:30-8:30 PM.
At this month’s meeting, we changed the format a bit and invited Dr. Martin Ruben to present a lecture on mental health, with an emphasis on looking at psychosis differently.
Dr. Rubin is a rare and unique kind of psychiatrist, and this worldly and compassionate man held our attention for the entire two hours.
At the end of Dr. Rubin’s talk, he shared a quote from one of his mentors, Dr. John Travis, and given my belief in the power of connection; I was thrilled when he shared the words of Dr. Travis:
Men’s Group at the Spiritual Life Center
I originally became part of this group when Deanna and I moved to the Curtis Park area back in 1998. Over the years Deanna and I were very active in the church. Also, my brother Tom and I taught Sunday School and were very involved with what was then called the Men’s Wisdom Council.
With all at wonderful history, it was great to be invited to speak at the group’s monthly meeting.
My talk was a different one, “Strength grown tender; the profile of the modern man.”
The talk compares the characteristics of the “old guard,” the type of man the world needed at the time of our grandfathers and fathers, and the “new guard,” the type of man the world is calling to step forward today.
The talk is divided into three parts: a comparison of the traits of the “old guard” and the “new guard,” ways to navigate from the profile of our ancestry to today, and examples of men in my life who possess, strength grew tender.
It was a great way to spend Saturday, and a blessing to go back to a piece of sacred ground that has meant so much to me for so many years.