I still see patients, but mainly I teach, write, and speak. Sometimes I clown, as a 6’6” psychiatrist dressed as a pink flamingo ballerina that invites a lot of giggles. I started clowning publically about 20 years ago after I first met Patch Adams M.D. (perhaps the world’s most recognized humanitarian clown). He opened me up to this extraordinary way of getting out of my head and into my heart space.
We still clown together regularly and my most prized academic credential is that I am Chief of Community Mental Health at the Gesundheit! Institute. It’s a small department (only me), and there is no actual physical Institute or hospital, but sometimes we conduct mental-health clinics during our global outreach work as clowns.
Clown-clinicians see patients in the streets; anybody who wants to talk about what’s troubling them gets to do that with someone who will listen to them with loving care and an open heart. We’ve been doing this for the last 2 years in the Peruvian Amazon, in an impoverished community and have written about these clinics in some detail: http://www.clinicalpsychiatrynews.com/index.php?id=2407&cHash=071010&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=13818
Speaking and being with people in this way, even for a short time, has a profound impact on both the clown and the patient, because in those moments that connection reminds us of our shared humanity.
I feel it’s time to be doing this work in the streets of Detroit, Denver or Phoenix, etc. as an alternative to the current model of making more and more diagnoses, and prescribing more pills. If you’re feeling anything other than wonderful in every moment it does not mean you are suffering from a mental illness for which you need drugs.
We need to sit around and talk to each other from this openhearted, caring place, instead of pathologizing the ordinary ups and downs of life. I am organizing the first Gesundheit! mental health street clinic in mall in America. Clowns will play, perform, talk or sit in silence, to anybody who wants to participate. No fees, insurance verification, or HIPAA compliance forms, just clown healers who might help you look at your life from another perspective, stimulate your imagination, make you laugh, cry, inspire a smile, or help you imagine that dreams can come true.
Help bring this clown to a mall near you. :O)