Frank King, Suicide Prevention and Postvention Public Speaker and Trainer, was a writer for The Tonight Show for 20 years, is a Corporate Comedian, syndicated humor columnist, and podcast personality, who was featured on CNN’s Business Unusual.
Depression and suicide run his family. He’s thought about killing himself more times than he can count. He’s fought a lifetime battle with depression, and thoughts of ending his life, turning that long dark journey of the soul into a TED Talk, “A Matter of Laugh or Death,” www.FrankTEDTalk.com and sharing his lifesaving insights on Mental and Emotional Health Awareness, with corporation, association, youth (middle school and high school), and college audiences www.TheSuicidePreventionSpeaker.com
VIDEO - DUwHF #1146 - Frank King
AUDIO - DUwHF #1146 - Frank King
As an Inspirational and Motivational Public Speaker and Trainer he uses the life lessons from the above, as well as lessons learned as a rather active consumer of healthcare, both mental and physical, to start the conversation giving people who battle Mental and Emotional Illness permission to give voice to their feelings and experiences surrounding depression and suicide, and to create a common pool of knowledge in which those who suffer, and those who care about them, can swim.
And doing it by coming out, as it were, and standing in his truth, and doing it with humor.
He believes that where there is humor there is hope, where there is laughter there is life, nobody dies laughing.
He is currently working on a book on men’s mental fitness, Guts, Grit, and the Grind, with two coauthors.
He lives in Eugene, OR and speaks around the US, and all over the world.
Howard: It's just a huge honor for me today to be podcast interviewing Frank King aka the mental health comedian a suicide prevention and postvention public speaker and trainer who turned a lifelong battle with depression into a keynote worth spreading after writing for The Tonight Show for over 20 years and performing corporate comedy Frank's attention his mission is to end the stigma surrounding mental health by sharing his sights with anyone everyone who will listen in an effort to start the conversation. Frank has thought about killing himself more times than he can count like many of us depression and suicide run in his family he addresses his own trials and tribulations using a tool people from all walks of life can relate to, humor with his TED talk which is amazing has over 20,000 views A Matter of Life or Death, he openly addresses topics considered taboo in today's society. As a motivational public speaker and trainer who travels the world, Frank uses comedy and personal life lessons to help break the ice and start an engaging conversation amongst those struggling with mental and emotional stability, this act of faith helps those struggling to find a voice to express themselves additionally it helps create a pool of common knowledge where those who suffer and those who care about can swim. He believes that there is humor there is hope and where there is laughter there is life nobody dies laughing. Frank is originally from North Carolina and now spends his off days in the Pacific Northwest. He travels the United States and beyond spreading his message hoping to end the stigma surrounding mental health and influencing the general public to start the conversation. Frank thanks so much for coming on the show
Frank: Howard I am delighted, nicely done on the bio by the way.
Howard: Oh you know when I got out of school in 87 dentists used to always say that dentistry had the highest suicide rate but as being a dentist for 31 years I've had patients who are police officers say yeah police officers have the highest suicide rate it seems like anything I can read shows that our military has the highest suicide rate. How is suicide in dentistry, do you think it makes even the top ten or is after military no one even...
Frank: Oh no matter fact they did a showcase last July for the Seattle study club for their coordinators conference and I started the started keynote showcase by saying ok I've got good news and I got bad news the good news is dentist are not number one on the list of at-risk occupations for depression thoughts of suicide the bad news is five six or seven depending on which study you happen to read here's how it goes by the way construction excavation mining farming fishing forestry dentists and veterinarians are right there and they switch back and forth five six seven and then come first responders physicians one physician today in the u.s. dies by suicide and then I think the military follows that.
Howard: Is there is chart somewhere for that you know where there's a chart on that?
Frank: Would you like me send you a link
Frank: Okay I'll send you a link you can put the notes for the podcast.
Howard: Because suicide it seems like you know growing up the most of my life America had three thirty thousand thirty thousand died in a car accident thirty thousand died in a work accident and thirty thousand killed themselves from suicide and that was pretty stable to about the year 2000 and then suicides just start it just taken off. I mean how many people killed themselves last year in America?
Frank: Forty-seven thousand which is about one every 11 minutes and by the way opioid death just past car accident deaths this year and the forty seven doesn't include opioids there's sixty five thousand opioid deaths by themselves.
Howard: Which was the entire casualty Vietnam war, when I grew up you know all the all my friends older brothers were all in Vietnam so when I grew up we used to play war all the time and we played it intently because you just thought when you got out of high school your and go to Vietnam like everyone's older brother and now that entire 10-year casualty war of American soldiers sixty thousand is how many overdose from opioid in one year that's just insane.
Frank: Well I think about this when I speak to groups I tell them 47,000 a year die by suicide on 9/11 roughly 4,000 people I guess died on that horrible day. So was it 11 times that many die every year 12 times that many died every year by suicide every year and then add opioids. I mean it's an epidemic and the reason I got started speaking was because the vacuum is hardly anybody is talking about it because it's one of those things you just don't talk about in as my mother would say from down south in polite company.
Howard: Right right and the other thing about 911 is you know two hundred twenty-nine hundred ninety six people were killed including the nineteen hijackers more than six thousand injured but my gosh we spent five six trillion dollars you know in wars battling that and then you sit there and say well okay let's just say 3,000 people died 9/11 300,000 Americans died in the health care system each year. I mean you would you know so priorities and can get emotional but what I love about you is you're talking about a dark subject that people don't like to talk about. I mean when we were when I was little people didn't even want to talk about money like no one would say how much they made, women wouldn't tell you how old they were and now a lot of things have come out the closet you know homosexuality came out of closet smoking marijuana as opposed to alcohol came out of the closet and do you see the stigma was suicide coming out of the closet or is it still a real taboo?
Frank: Oh no it is it has come out can I got a note this morning on Facebook from a friend who graduated high school in 86 and she said you know Frank my best friend in high school died by suicide and A nobody talked about it B nobody wanted to talk about it and if an adult was asked about her death they would just say she died suddenly. So the good news is we are more open about now than we were back then the bad news is we have a long way to go because it you know suicide and mental illness is our about the last two taboos for you know as my mother would say speaking about in polite company and here's another part of the problem Howard a friend of mine is getting ready to a TED talk on how do you come out to your friends and family if you are depressed because there's a stigma attached to mental illness and then how do you come out as suicidal there's another stigma attached to being suicidal. So she's gonna do a TED talk on how do you come out successfully to your friends and family. She's got a friend who came out to her folks that she was depressed she said if folks down I got something serious to tell you and she comes out as depressed and suicidal and they're like oh I was kind of hoping you were just gay because that they can wrap their minds around it's you know the idea that someone wants to take their life it's hard for normal people to grasp.
Howard: Now it seems like a lot of the research I read and some of the podcasts I've done, I've done some podcast for the substance abuse people and a lot of people I'm reading that the same percent of the population whether this is about 15 percent or abusing substance are mentally ill or suicidal is it... in fact one guest came on my show, she said that she probably thought 85% of all the people abusing a substance were self-medicating mental illness do you think depression suicide substance abuse is all the same people with the foundation of mental illness?
Frank: No I think a goodly number of people who are mentally ill self-medicate with drugs and alcohol I don't think 85% that doesn't sound quite right to me and you know the their's also some sliced population Howard who are are just they just use drugs and alcohol recreational perhaps to the point of abuse and don't have any mental illness. Now if you have a mental illness it can exacerbate that but there are you know there are some quote-unquote neuro normal people, they're just drunk. Their are just junkies I mean it said the two don't necessarily go hand in hand it's not you know they're not what to call comorbidities they don't necessarily exist always in the same brain I guess what I'm trying to say.
Howard: Well what do you what do you think the overlap would be that I mean you can be a drunk and not be mentally ill and you can be mentally ill and not abuse alcohol but what do you think the overlap is?
Frank: I think the last study I read said that upwards of 50% of people who have a drug and alcohol problem are in fact self-medicating so I think it's closer to 50% than 85% that would mean that the other 50% of people who are you know recreationally using and abusing drugs now call are just neuro normal and they're just you know they're just using, they're not trying to treat something.
Howard: Same question for suicide what what percent of people who commit suicide do you think are mentally ill?
Frank: Oh I would say I would say pretty much anybody who is not let's say high school teacher who gets busted for you know having improper contact with a student staring at a federal jail sentence and just goes look I'm not going to jail and kills themselves. I would say it's I was at relatively rare, here's the thing suicide is and depression often times it's not situational in other words it can be triggered by situation a divorce, bankruptcy, losing a job, but in my case I've been most depressed suicidal at times in my life when things were the best. So it's not you know it's it's my wiring and chemistry not so much the actual situation now there are situations that trigger my depression and there are situations that trigger suicide but I don't I would guess that from what I've read the majority of suicides are not simply situational loss of job, declare bankruptcy, got divorced, unless of course like I said you're facing a stretch in a you know in a federal prison where you're gonna be here dance cards gonna be full every night.
Howard: Right so what is your what is your message for dentist where do you where do you think they could benefit from you and your message on the mental health comedian?
Frank: Here's the good news Howard of the top 10 occupations because those are target markets I pitch them all of the top ten occupations the only two occupations that are actually actively doing something to prevent their the members of that occupation from dying by suicide I guess three including the military our dentists veterinarians and the military and first responders you know are coming around but dentists and veterinarians that are leading the pack in look this is a problem we have to do something about this and we have to do it some but now.
Howard: So you were gonna email me a link to the top ten occupations?
Frank: Yes I can do that let me shrink you down to half size here you feel a little squeeze, yes all right yes so the I think what dentists can do but again it begins with starting a conversation like my TED talk you know the whole idea is you need to start the conversation you need to give people permission to give voice to those feelings without recrimination, you need to be able to give any professionals the ability to give voice to those feelings and experiences without losing their license the because you know if you're a physician or a dentist and I'm assumed with dentistry the licensing board finds out that you have an issue can they take your license...
Howard: Well you know that's really changed to the better so far when I got out of school you know 31 years ago if you got caught being an alcoholic they were all loving concern and they had that you know the the pee in the cup program and you yeah I got you know ten buddies from the Dental Society that we're all in a a with you but but my god if it was vicodin or opioids or cocaine or something like that and they that's how you were a criminal and you needed to be in a cage and that's really changed for several states. Now the the the term I hate using the most of the United States of America because you can't compare Alaska to Miami you can't compare our San Francisco to Wichita Kansas, so you're talking about 50 states and just like you would think some of the more redneck states in the south are still thinking that you know you need a spanking when you a substance abuse issue and I know dentists some of my friends that I'm actually really good friends with think it's just a choice say they don't see it as a disease or addiction or things like that or you know so it's tough when you talk about the United States because it's really in fact even the Federal Reserve says that the United States is nine different countries flying under the same flag that's why they have federal reserve branches all around the United States because it's so diverse and huge. It's funny when I meet dentists from outside the country they always say oh I went to American I say oh where did you go and they always flew in to New York City to the Greater New York Dental meeting and all they've seen in America is Manhattan and I always think man what a bizarre sample size to think what is America and then swing into Manhattan for the weekend.
Frank: Oh my god
Howard: So did you ever find that list are you still emailing?
Frank: I am actually still searching for it as we speak. So I guess the answer your question is is if if the dentists like the Seattle Study Club if they would bring me in you know to a one of their biannual meetings to broach the subject in front of everybody because what I find Howard is when I do that it starts conversation I just did a suicide prevention talk on Lackland Air Force Base and I happened to run into one of the gentleman who was there because lunch followed my presentation and he said Frank you would not believe at lunch every conversation at our table and around me was all about the the things you talked about and this is something we've never I've never heard spoken out loud on this base so that's the that is the I believe that is the solution or you know that is the beginning of the solution to that.
Howard: So I'm trying CNN they say the using information for the highest suicide rates what are they saying, in 2015 the construction extraction field are the highest rates of suicide for men with fifty three suicides per 100,000 worker women in arts design entertainment sports and media had a high suicide rate of 15 per hundred thousand arts design entertainment sports media saw a large increase in suicides among men. So I used to hear that women attempt suicide more but men have higher suicides because when men attempted their completion rate is very high because they use a weapon like a gun whereas when girls attempt suicide more often but it's pills or cutting or something where it's more likely they can be resuscitated is that true do you think or do you think that's not true?
Frank: No I do believe that it's true because men more often than women actually women women attempt more men carry it through more complete more because I don't want to use were successful complete more because they use a gun and one of the problems in the u.s. regardless of what you think about guns and I've often said look I'm not an anti gun nut I'm a nut but I'm not an anti gun, it's because guns are so readily available in the US there are so many and so easily easy to obtain although people you take away their guns take away their gun they will find a way to die by suicide if they are you know hell-bent on dying two out of eight two out of ten people are hell-bent on dying by suicide there's nothing you could do the good news is Howard eight out of 10 are ambivalent by you know by this the studies I've seen. So you can interrupt that cascade down if you can start the conversation again back to that starting the conversation.
Howard: So it's plagued dentistry I mean I've never gone a year without having a troubling hearing of a suicide in fact in Phoenix I was talking about this because of our podcast coming up I was talking about this this weekend with my buddies and they were saying that about one to three dentists and Phoenix have killed themselves every year since we've been here. My favorite instructor dental school killed himself you know it was just it's just troubling. What would you say to the people listening to that might be thinking about this or to the dentist that aren't thinking about it but they often wonder if a close friend or loved one might be thinking about it?
Frank: Well let's first talk about how do you spot it and we go upstream a little bit. Depression of course I as I mentioned generally proceeds a suicide and manic depression in other words if you're on the downside the manic side of manic depression you know you're you know there's mania hypomania and then depressive state is it actually more dangerous than simple ordinary depression like I have first you need to know you need to figure out determined if they are depressed and there's there are signs and symptoms if you would like to I have to go over a couple signs and symptoms the you could look for these things one they have trouble getting start in the morning rally in the afternoon to they let their personal hygiene go that's a big that's the big indicator eat too much, can't eat, sleep too much, can't sleep and every doctor in the country and I'm hoping someday that dentists will do this have to ask are supposed to ask two gateway questions mental health gateway questions have you felt sad or depressed in the last I think it's a two weeks have you lost enthusiasm for you know ordinary social activities you used to take a great amount of joy in and if the patient answers yes to either one of those they're seven more questions that go into greater depth and your family physician is supposed to ask you those every time they see you but I got to tell you my family physician has yet to ask me and I don't know this because they don't want to know the answer because they're limited to ten minutes per client what if I say yes I'm suicidal what's the doctor gonna do because there's a shortage of mental health professionals where does he refer me. I think the physician all sudden and I suppose the dentist would feel on the hook at that point if a patient came out and said I'm depressed having thoughts of suicide. So if those are the signs of depression the question comes up then what do you say what don't you say if you believe let's say you believe the dentist is depressed here's what you don't say pull yourself up by your bootstraps turn that frown upside down everybody gets blue now and then why are you depressed you have so much to be thankful for again it's not generally situational it's the practice could be extremely successful you know all his patients loved him they'd love to see him his staff is fabulous you know he's surrounded by the people like you say you pick your staff very carefully but you the dentist could still be depressed. So what you do say is look I'm here for you and you gotta mean it I know that depression is a mental illness with time and treatment things will get better I know you're not crazy lazy or self-absorbed I will take the time I'll help you get the treatment and mean it and if in fact Howard you believe the dentist is depressed or the dental hygienist or the patient then the next question you have to ask in this fashion is are you having thoughts of suicide just as blunt as that. Their's an old urban legend that you should never mention the S word in front of someone who's depressed because I love this it might give them the idea suicide what a great idea why didn't I think of that, trust me it's crossed their mind. Signs they may be suicidal again the eat too much, can't eat, sleep too much, can't sleep, their is a crossover side. They are collecting the means, weather they're stockpiling medication or buying a gun to die by suicide they are giving away prized possessions because they want to make sure those possessions go to the people they want them to go to when they are gone if someone gives away a pet that's like top of the pyramid in terms of giving away possessions and here's an here's a counterintuitive one very dangerous depressed depressed depressed and all sudden happy for no apparent reason they may have chosen time place and method and they know the pain is finite which by the way speaks to another misconception. Being suicidal my friends and family anytime somebody dies by suicide I get phone calls why would why would Anthony Bourdain want to die well the answer is chances are he did not want to die he just wanted to end the pain, I know when I came so close I just wanted to end the pain if I got to pull the trigger and then woken up pain-free the next morning that would have been ideal but unfortunately you know with a gun there's no coming back you can't so does that does that help?
Howard: Yeah and like Anthony Bourdain that was a that was a shocker for me because you would just think that guy and Robin Williams and Marilyn Monroe and Ernest Hemingway, you would just think my god they're role models the they made it to the peak of the mountain. I mean look at Antietam ordained I mean what's your job oh I traveled the world and meet interesting people and eat neat food while yeah I mean it just seems beyond crazy that these would be victims to a self harm.
Frank: Well and here's the deal Howard I did a TED talk on that very thing and you used a used Kate Spade also very successful and Anthony Bourdain as examples. My guess is the TED talk I did is called suicide the secret of my success dead man talking. I believe I am as successful as I am today because I always had suicide as that emergency exit you know pull the handle door pops up and you're out and I've read several studies that said a third of entrepreneurs are depressed and having thoughts of suicide and clinicians believe it's because that they have long hours little sleep unmet expectations I think that's probably the case in a lot of cases but I also suspect because I've talked to a number of entertainers and entrepreneurs who are not entrepreneurs or entertainers there they are they're not depressed and suicidal because they are entrepreneurs and entertainers they are in fact entertainers and entrepreneurs because they were suicidal but that's how I was. I was unhappily married I was working the insurance business great business not for me and not doing comedy and I knew I was gonna kill myself sooner rather than later unless I made a change and then I realized wait a minute I get divorce my wife quit my job try stand-up comedy if it works great if it doesn't I can still kill myself I posted the pitch for that TED talk on YouTube and got 12,000 hits over the weekend so I knew I was onto something that I did the TED talk which has gotten a goodly number of. So I think that Anthony Bourdain he was going to Basser he I don't know what program he was in there but it's great College, he loved restaurants folks took into Paris when he's eight fell in love with food all during high school work to restaurants when you're in college he's working at a restaurant or two but he's in a major that's not culinary I'm guessing he came to the same juncture I did look Basser's a great school this is a great major but this is not where I belong. I belong in the restaurant business so if I stay in this major at this college I may kill myself I believe yet underlying mental illness and self-medicated to the max so he maybe he made the same decision I did look I could quit college go to the Culinary Arts Institute if it works out great if not I can still kill myself. Kate Spade very similar she's working at Mademoiselle magazine she's the editor of the accessories part of the magazine, I believe she may have said herself look I'm not supposed to be reviewing other people's fashions I should have my own fashion line maybe she's depressed and thinking like I stay here and do not live the life I believed I should be living I'm gonna kill myself. Is it possible she thought well what the heck quit Mademoiselle start my own fashion line if it works great if it doesn't then I can kill myself and I think what happened was Howard cuz people asked why would somebody with everything to live for Bourdain and Kate Spade. I believe they just got tired of living I think what normal people don't understand is that living with a mental illness is like being that Greek character Sisyphus it has to roll the rock up the hill every day gets near the top rolls back down. When you have mental illness you wake up every morning there's a rock and a hill somedays Rock is small and the hills not so steep somedays the rock is a boulder and the hill is Mount Everest but every day with a mental illness there's a rock and a hill and my guess, this is what happened to me and I'm guessing it happened to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain they woke up one morning they just couldn't move the rock. I woke up one morning I couldn't move the rock decided in my life time place method I had it all planned does that make sense?
Howard: Yeah, you're a comedian and their's been a couple of movies that had come out last couple of years about comedians and does I think the question was does this comedy come from pain do you remember that movie?
Frank: Yes and I do believe it does.
Howard: Well what movie was that? Was it dying laughing?
Frank: It may have been and then there's an HBO special the guy just did in the last year comic came out talked about his treatment recovery and his thoughts of suicide yeah it's something...
Howard: Yeah Dying Laughing, where they were talking about how the craft a creative process of gifted comedians comes from extremely complicated lives.
Frank: Well and Howard I hate to sound like a broken record on this but guess what I did a TED talk on that, it's called mental with benefits. I believe that mental illness is not a singularity it's a combination of mental illness oftentimes in mental ableness in the same brain the same wiring that that causes my depression and chronic suicidality I do believe it gives me my sense of humor timing imagination and I think with comics with entertainers with musicians with politicians with you look at the number of people who have been successful in the variety of fields and the list of ones that have bipolar ADHD, ADD depression you know whatever is rather long at the end of my TED talk on that subject I said look you don't have to have a mental illness to be rich and famous but you know it may not hurt. So I think you know it starts off like this, what if what if those of us with mental illness are not living with a genetic mutation but an amazing evolutionary adaptation. What if it is as Malcolm Gladwell says of such things in his book David Goliath it is a desirable disadvantage you'd never wish it on anybody but if you can treat the mental illness and embrace them mentallabelness as most comedians have done and ride that horse as long as you can and Robin survived it till 62 which for someone with his issues I do believe is a long time
Howard: and Bourdain made to 61.
Howard: It remind my most favorite books of all time was the the hype the hypomanic edge the link between a little craziness and a lot of success in America by John Gardner did you ever see that book?
Frank: I've got it about halfway through it
Howard: and it was amazing books thinking that therir's a little bit of crazy leads to a lot of success and
Frank: I think well the first examples users Alexander Hamilton I do believe was born in poverty and in the Bahamas or somewhere in the Caribbean and of course rose to great heights and from historical records it you know he had mood swings and he could work hours on end without sleep and so yeah I'm thoroughly enjoying that book and by the way there's a football player named Johnny Manziel Johnny football just came out as bipolar and now getting treatment medication but he was the youngest I get only freshman to win the Heisman so far very successful I believe he achieved a great deal of his success in that band of hypomania where you're charismatic energetic enthusiastic you take inspired risks the problem is he was self-medicating so sooner or later after two years with the Browns Cleveland Browns it melted down and he was out of the league but what I had it could be...
Howard: What I thought was most interesting about the hypomanic edges they said that America you know for years America had 4% bipolar and Europe had a half percent so they just thought everybody was measuring it wrong and then when they finally started getting serious they realized wow there really is a big discrepancy and then they finally it took them decades to figure out that it was natural selection who was the most likely European to say you know screw this country I'm gonna get in a boat nothing and one in eight boats sink across the Atlantic and I'm just gonna sail to America and start my dream and who is that that's someone in a manic episode and that ends up with a four out of a hundred Americans bipolar and one in 200 of Europeans because we brain drained them and built one of the biggest countries I mean these it was kind of like when who's that guy an Elon Musk when people were saying yeah he was on Joe Rogan's Pacquiao smoking pot and drinking dude out there seven you know over a hundred billion humans have come and died there's only seven and a half billion live today how many of them started a car company and then and then on the side a rocket company where the rocket lands and is reusable and then has a boring company on the side and has been married and divorced to the same Woman twice. I mean what does Elon have to do to say hey can you guys kind of you know chill I mean I this is I imagine his brain is an amazing place but everybody needs to give that guy some room because I you know your cousin Eddie isn't gonna start a car company I mean you know.
Frank: Well and and to mental to the idea of mental with benefits, I believe you treat the issue but you embrace enhance energize whatever their ability is which will change the frame for them and their peers reduce stigma and bullying and Google at this point I am told is hiring people with autism and very specific skills they may have zero social skills but they're really good as many people who have an illness are at one or two things and so Google's hiring them and let them do that thing rewarding them for what it is they do well rather than try to mainstream them that make sense?
Howard: Yeah well Larry Page, he is on well he's autistic he's on the Asperger's syndrome where that's why he got into computers his dad he was a cheesehead from Wisconsin, his dad didn't ever see Larry Page ever working in the functional world with people so he thought maybe he can relate to this machine and then what I've always learned in programming is that you know all these companies will tell you that one good programmer will do the work of five faster when you got five it's kind of like a team project in college when you got five unmotivated people working on a project they get it done it's late if it sucks they'd rather just have one good programmer and Larry Page knows is that some of these autistic people they just crawl into a different dimension it's kind of like into the matrix and one of those programmers can equal a hundred other programmers if someone just completely immerses themselves into the programming matrix and that keeps doing it.
Frank: Yeah I heard a woman speak years ago decades ago about how the Hollywood the production companies use people who have bipolar because if they're in the hypomanic or manic phase then they can work you know twice as long as an average human in a day's time they need very little to eat Hollywood's all about deadlines and so they let them go go go go go for two or three weeks and then when they crash and burn they understand look go home get your head together we'll see you when we see you. So again they have embraced that ability and there but you know the normal I mean the the basic corporate world is not gonna let you know well you can't do that you don't have any peak tip time off anymore pti whatever it is you don't have enough PTI to go do that so it's unfortunately the straight up corporate vault is not humble to that fact except Google apparently has. Let me address something that you you asked earlier on about what can I do for dentists. I spoke for the coordinators at the Seattle Study Club last July ,did a fifteen-minute showcase and they got a standing ovation and people were crying and I talked to the speaker's bureau that booked me for that and I said do you think we'll get a lot of bookings at the conference's around the country of the Seattle Study Clubs she goes Frank you know the coordinators obviously they believe it's a problem they believe you have a part of the answer she goes the dentists she goes I just get the feeling the dentists are gonna go no no no no we don't talk about that we don't want to we want to go there we don't want to so and I haven't gotten a phone call I should have had a phone call by now with a booking or two with the Seattle study club so I think the stumbling block may be the dentist's themselves. I'm hoping they will come around I'm hoping hoping I'm wrong I'm hoping I'd you know but I haven't got any bookings with the next academic year so I don't know.
Howard: Well maybe well if someone's listening to you and wants to book you for their deal your website is www.thementalhealthcomedian.com
Howard: and you're on Twitter @themhcomedian for the mental health comedian the mh comedian
Howard: It's just a taboo, I you know I'm sure something that's complicated suicide it's probably multifactorial I'm sitting here typing a list of all the ones that I knew coming up this show it seems like a couple of my friends who did it, it was a severe reaction to a loss of a lover one guy came home his wife left him a note and she left him and he did a lot of IV sedation so he just went to the office and started an IV and put himself down. Another guy same thing here in my backyard his lover left him and so would you say that a bizarrely overreaction to loss of love is a trigger for suicide?
Frank: Yes I would say loss of love lots of a business, bankruptcy, that's how that's why I came so close with bankruptcy. I mean I had the underlying depression and the underlying thoughts of suicide but I had always maintained until we lost everything at a chapter 7 bankruptcy and my wife was devastated her pain was really what was killing me and if I'd been single I think I could have sailed through but having to deal with her pain and my pain that was just that pushed me over the top that's why you know I decided I made that decision across that barrier which once you've crossed that barrier once you decided you can end your life that's their's a three three factors, burdensomeness I'm worth more dead than alive or people would be better off without me in my case I was worth more to my wife dead than alive a million-dollar life-insurance policy. Their's a sense of isolation social isolation you know we're going to stand-up comic you're working by yourself no committee meetings no team you know it's relatively socially isolated and then once you cross that barrier that you decide you can in fact take your life that's the intersection of that venn diagram where things become very dangerous.
Howard: Yeah I had a patient who's oh my god her she had two boys and a girl and one of the boys was in high school and got in a car wreck and he died in the car wreck and then later that night she heard a bang and her other son upstairs took his own life, so she lost his son in an auto accident and a son from a suicide in one night and I just thought to myself you know I couldn't imagine living through that much pain but what scares me about it is how I get were right to bear arms I get that I was grown in Kansas went on your granite crate in Nebraska everybody in in Missouri when you go to a Walmart during season there's more duck decoys than there's boxes of Tide soap. I totally get it but where where I think that we have failed is I've heard that the congressman in the NRA and have really put downward pressures on the CDC linking how having a firearm in the house is just so increases your chance of something bad going on and it just seems to me that if people were concerned about someone or or or whatever the first thing is to is get to them firearms out of their house do you agree with that or do you think of take away the gun they're just gonna go climb up on the roof and dive onto the driveway I mean I mean do you do you think the gun do you think the gun makes it easier faster to do or do you think it's not really linked?
Frank: I think 2 out of 10 times take the gun away the person's gonna hang themself, 8 out of 10 times take the gun away I think it's a good chance you've interrupted the Cascade and the problem you mentioned was that I don't believe the CDC is allowed by law to study the problem they haven't they they've asked many times let us study it as a public health and safety issue because I talk about suicide prevention is a dental workplace health and safety issue so and enough in other industries I talk about...
Howard: and your saying the CDC is not allowed to study it?
Frank: No they've asked many times can we study this is a public health public safety health and safety issue and they've been disallowed by the federal government.
Howard: and why would someone in the federal not want the cdc's 15,000 employees to study this?
Frank: Well because and I think you hit on Howard and I don't know your politics but I think you hit on in that the downward pressure from the NRA.
Howard: I know I think the thing is you know people need to be able to you know everybody wants to criticize someone else but I mean people need to look inward and I mean you can't grow up in Kansas and not I mean it might my boys my four boys their grandmother she's gotta have over 50 weapons I mean she lives on a farm. She can walk out her front door and shoot a 30.6 in any direction blindfolded cuz she's not gonna hit anything but I still think it is completely unamerican when these people that want to have the right to bear arms and their leader at the NRA well he sure as hell doesn't have checks and balances he lives more like a dictator of unchecked balance and he's always talking about how bad the government is but went but when politicians take money from the NRA and then tell public health speakers and research scientists that they can't study this and talk about it and try to come around because if you just say anything about regulation or the Second Amendment you know they gets all emotional. I mean you're we're not gonna solve complex problems by not talking about it and not sharing blame you know there's a lot of blame to go around.
Frank: Unfortunately this is one of those third rails of politics and when I speak outside the dental industry to other industries there are three of us that are going to be speaking together their's a guy who does active shooter drills that's all the way downstream there's a guy who speaks on handling confrontation at work that's midstream I'm gonna come in and talk about depression thoughts of suicide signs symptoms and solutions which is upstream because if you can catch the person who is depressed now he thought suicide upstream you might not need the confrontation training or the active shooter drills. It's a shame that it has to be three people to come in to solve this one problem but that you know that's just the way things are here in the United States it's you know and pretend it for dentists by the way because people ask me why dentists, well their a lot like nerds come out of school with a big student loan debt cost a lot of money to start a practice even a really successful practice the more patience the more expense, so you're working through lunch you're working late you're working early you're not getting to the gym so you got mental physical and financial stress and then you mentioned earlier an easy access to barbiturates. I guess you know and an IV Barbra chore saying with veterinarians they've got there they have the barbiturates and they're used to euthanasia. So they have they go to the office they plug you know they hook themselves up and when the staff you know comes in the next morning they find them so it's a multifaceted problem for those people.
Howard: and you know a lot of its really changed like I'm you know I'm still waiting for that sex talk from my parents you know they say you shouldn't teach sex education school because your dad will give you that talk and my dad and mom still not giving me that talk and I have four children and five grandchildren but you know when I was in dental school when I heard you know no one ever talked about our opioid abuse and when I got a tell school Henry Schein you could order 500 tabs of hydrocodone. I mean you that you I mean dentist were having a mail to them routinely and and the former pharmaceutical people used to always combinely boxes and boxes of supplies right and so now the pendulum is all swung where now the kids get out of school and they realize it's a huge issue so I tell the my four boys times the change if you two asked me when I was in high school if my if someday my gay brother could get married publicly and that you could smoke pot without getting on going to jail I just said no and now one generation later the attitudes have totally changed on gay marriage and marijuana. So I have seen massive progress in my life I think the next generation will probably address depression suicide and the multifactorial I mean it's still multi-factor I mean so many people have depression they got a they got a fight depression and substance abuse, they don't have the best diet exercise. You know you always read these articles that are saying that exercise was just as effective as many other treatments and so and what do you think about medication you know that's not a cure-all. I mean it seems like the pharmacology treatment of depression it works for some and it doesn't work for others would you agree with that or?
Frank: I believe I fought to get medication till I was 60 I took some over-the-counter medication or over-the-counter supplements which worked very well for me for a long time finally I asked my doctor and he put me on something and three weeks later I'm like what was I waiting for but bear this in mind Howard I believe in a holistic approach rather than just the pharmaceutical approach I get a good night's sleep I'm on a very specific diets I'm believe it or not it's 62 I'm an aspiring bodybuilder I've already done my first contest so there's an exercise element meditate twice a day. So I think it's I think pharmaceuticals are a great part of a holistic plan they call it a safe care plan I work 12 cruises a year on Holland America and sailing out away from cell phone service for a week is extremely healthy. You know I get to catch up on all the analog work that I never have time for I just here's what I'm hoping for in the dental office Howard because I met two people at the the JumpStart thing I did with Vanessa Emerson. Their's a young woman who speaks to hygienists and staff about dealing with patients so the patient sits down in the chair and then allows us how they are depressed and having thoughts suicide what's a hygienist to do. Another young woman spoke on she'd work for a dentist who told her leave your problems at the door and she was in a horribly abusive relationship with her husband I mean to the point he was beating her but the dentist said that you had to leave that at the door so she talks to staff and dentists about how look you know problems don't stop when the person turns the knob to come into the practice and then of course the dentist's themselves need self-care because you know they're at the pyramid the top of the pyramid they you know that they're the reason everybody else below them has a job and a place to go to work and an income. So again it's a holistic just treat the dentists good idea hygienists good idea the you know the patient's great idea but it's again it's a multi-faceted problem.
Howard: Well we talked about an answer selection to where America became the bipolar magnum because the people most likely to pick up and leave their country. I've read that as of today less than 1% of all the humans on earth are living in a country right now that they weren't born in so it's a extremely rare behavior to just pack up and move to another I couldn't imagine, I've lectured in 50 countries I couldn't imagine doing that but the other natural selection is who becomes a dentist or you mentioned other the high suicide rate of that veterinarians. Who becomes a dentist or a veterinarian or a lawyer not the well-rounded kid in college you had a girlfriend and was in a frat and was in a softball league it was someone sitting in the library banging out straight A's, gosh when I mean it just it's a it's a crazy natural selection so when you were telling that story of this dentist not wanting to talk about this. I mean when I meet dentists they remind me of a mathematician a physicist a scientist they just don't seem to really excel on the touchy feeling they don't like to sell dentistry they don't like to listen to staff, patients, people. What is nice you give to this introvert mathematician physicist who just wants to go in there and perform surgery on a molar and really doesn't want to talk to them and doesn't want to hear the patient's drama from home and says leave that at the door you know what coach this natural selection dentist veterinarian lawyer to be more holistic?
Frank: Well I I believe if I'm mistaken Howard you saw somebody in your neighborhood who was a dentist who was doing very well always had a new car every two years and you thought to yourself I want that and it's not every kid who sees that they may see it they may want it but I saw my orthodontist I thought man I counted the patients that came in his office when I was there and I multiply by how much I was paying every month I'm like man I'm gonna be orthodontist but I just didn't have the drive which you obviously had. I think when I read your book it seems to me you hire people that fill in the gaps in your in your personality and your you know you you hire people that compliment you, you have things you do very well and you want to do those things want to hire somebody who can do the touchy-feely somebody who can handle the books somebody who can you know somebody who can deal with coding because if you don't code correctly you go to jail for insurance fraud. So I think the answer is in your book you hire to fill in the gaps in your knowledge ability personality, I think your assistant you said you guys make this nice you know this sort of team where you fit together like two puzzle pieces and because you can't do what she does and she can't do what you do at least naturally am I right?
Howard: Yeah you know I was lucky in my first dental assistant you know that was a thirty year deal but my management team is pretty much all twenty years for ten years I try to do everything myself and then I got to realizing that and that's not a very good exit strategy because everyone dies and you don't want to die and have your business you know hit by a bulldozer and so why are you why are you doing everything yourself you have to delegate a hundred percent someday. Dentists don't like to delegate they're controlling they want to do everything they always say well you want it done right you gotta do it yourself. Well not with that attitude I mean it just doesn't work so my management my assistant was you know thirty years out of the gate but my whole management team I got about five people who have been with me 20 years so it shows you that I wasted or I spent ten years not growing as often as I could and I try to get dentists to learn that that you used to manage people time and money get the best team fire fast hire slow. The minute you know your quarterback will never play in the playoffs of the Super Bowl you got to fire fast but you just surround yourself the and one other thing about dentists stress is that you know don't give people money that you don't want to be around. I mean so many dentists are stressed out their mind because they physically hate one of their employees but they pay them money on the first and the 15th never pay someone money that you don't like to be and there's nine specialties to refer to I would say that the majority drive of all my referrals in 31 years of dentistry is not because I couldn't pull the wisdom teeth, do the ortho, couldn't place the implant is because I didn't like that person I thought man I wouldn't want someone performing if I needed to have a bypass and someone said yeah this doctor is really really good and he hates you he really thinks you're despicable. I don't want that guy doing a bite I don't want to do a root canal on someone that I'm that is disrespectful I don't like him they're rude to the staff and I've called the police on a patient about every decade and I fired a lot of patients and anybody says that you're customer is number one isn't is an abusive person your team is number one and if I really love my Valerie and someone comes in off the street and starts dropping f-bombs and telling her everything she did wrong and and I say we're not serving you get out of here and if you don't leave right now I'm calling 911. Your staff comes first and what I like most about my team is that when I'm driving to work, I mean every single person that I pay money to on payroll on the first and fifteenth. I mean over fifty I generally can't wait to see them I like them like yoni how's your baby you know are you upset that you had a second one did you get me say I mean and dentists just go to work and they they hide in their office because they they hate their hygienists I mean it's crazy.
Frank: Well I'm something else in your book Howard and I believe this in life in general, try to hire people who have a passion for what it is you are hiring them for and now you could read a book on dental suicide prevention you could come in and you could give you know figure to the Arizona whatever you know what the Association meeting you could deliver it but why not hire somebody who has a passion for it who when people in the audience they can feel you know the the pain the vulnerability this guy knows what he's talking about same with employees in the dental practice somebody who loves being a hygienist, somebody who loves you know working the front desk be in the front door being the face of the practice, picks up the phone I talked to a woman this morning I thought about you it's the drug company one of my injectables have a heart thing did the sure click didn't sure click and I called up she said you're gonna have to call the manufacturer, let me get this straight you provided me with the sure click now it's my responsibility to call the manufacturer you know for my car if the door lock doesn't work on my new car I take him back to the dealer they don't go hey man you're gonna have to call ford. So and I asked to speak to her supervisor because not only was she Curt and and doesn't any sense she wasn't polite and she is the face of that pharmaceutical company, so she needs a passion for dealing with people who have she needs some empathy Howard is what she needs Oh Mr. King I am so sorry that happened let's see if we can figure out how to, I tell you what you're supposed to call the manufacturer but let me do this let me dial them up while I've got you on the phone and I'll walk you through it it's what you should have said. So I think if you hire the people with passion for whatever duties job and I'm guessing you're 50 people all have passion for what it is they do and I'm guessing if you didn't show up one day they would still do it. You know that's that's the sign of a good organization, if all of a sudden you had to be gone for a week and it continues to run then you have staffed well.
Howard: Well I hope I hope people have you come in and talk I am you know I I'm in contact with a lot of dentists I have a lot of dentists and I can see Texas and small-town study clubs they say well the reason I like Dentaltown so much is it's anonymous I won't go to any of my local study clubs because I'm afraid they'll find out I'm a woman dentist married to a woman or a man dentist married to a man or you know there's just a lot of fear and people just don't want to talk about mental health, depression, bipolar, substance abuse. I mean in this country you want to break your leg you don't want to have a broken brain they're scared and and you know what made my brother you know your a gay in Kansas and every time he would he would be sad to me I'd say well you know Paul I said you you know you're not gonna change the minds of 3 million people in Kansas if your brother was gay on the first train to San Francisco and my brother actually up them bad idea he moved to Sydney, Australia because they have the highest homosexual population right because when they invented the airplane people decided I can't tell my Greek father I'm gay or Italian or French or whatever so they'd buy a one-way plane ticket to Australia and another one that's bizarre I can't figure out you know the biggest day city in the United States now you know what it is now?
Howard: It's Salt Lake City
Howard: I know it's like how my brother get even believing us how did the state of Mormons now become you know you you get outside of Salt Lake City it's mostly LDS but you get in downtown San and Salt Lake City it's only half Mormon and gay population is going high but the point I'm making about the gay deal is that nobody could talk about their feelings that they were gay 25 years ago nobody could admit this they preferred pot instead of Jack Daniels and I'm hoping someday people just see the brain as like a tooth some teeth need a root canal they need medication and I do think the brain is the final frontier I mean it's pretty easy people make the things that a cardiovascular surgeon is all that but I mean he's basically a glorified plumber, he takes a clogged pipe out of your heart and takes a least clogged vein out of your leg and does a coronary artery bypass graft. I think it could easily be another thousand years before they totally understand how the human brain works what is intelligence what is depression you know but the best thing about it is to start the conversation that's what I applaud you for that's why I asked you to be on my show you didn't call me, is when I saw your TED talk and I saw you speak at Seattle Study Club I thought this needs to get a message out and if it was not the dentist himself it might be as kid it might be a spouse it might be as family patient loved one it's all over the community.
Frank: Howard can I something I learned at dental town is that there's a big push in dentistry for dentists to become non physician primary care providers and also a whole body approach and so I said to somebody there yeah you know dentists have to have to go a little higher they can't just stop just below the tonsils they've got to go up into the you know there's another organ up there above the tonsils that they really need to take a you know to help to help with if you're gonna be a non physician primary care provider you need to take the whole body into account.
Howard: Yeah and you know and that's the same thing as selling dentistry, I mean when I look at people when you said another thing about depression is they're not taking care of themselves a lot of the people that have all that had 12 cavities and gum disease and a lot of patients are they're a deadbeat well you ever thought that maybe the reasoning of 12 cavities and gum disease because they're depressed they're not taking care of themselves. It was a big thing I learned on cosmetic dentistry is that when people don't like their smile they don't they don't they're not in the teeth they don't brush floss they don't take care of it but something as simple as just bleaching their teeth and giving them Invisalign to just if they just started to like their teeth they start taking care of it they'd spend money on it they would get into it and and yeah dentists the oral health continuum. We have to be physician the mouth I need to quit doing them a health care system where the physician doesn't ask you any of those questions because in America Medicaid you know that's the lowest paying bill Medicaid they'll pay you $100,000 for a bypass or $70,000 for an artificial hip or $50,000 for an artificial knee or a mastectomy but then the same company will only give you 27 dollars for the exam.
Howard: It's like oh so so okay let me get this right I get a hundred thousand dollars if I carve Frank open but only twenty seven dollars if I talk to him for half an hour. So we have to we have to start allocating more money to exams and consultations and less money for just cutting people open and flaying them in a surgery.
Frank: Well you know Howard the mouth is the gateway to the heart, I've had two aortic valve replacements, a double bypass, a heart attack, three stents, and I have to premedicate because if they draw blood and mouths you know there is some debate about this but I want to have the antibiotics on board cuz nobody likes endo endocarditis. So yeah if they the mouth should be taken much more seriously it's the Gateway to the entire body whether it's diabetes or heart disease or you know that's something else I learned to jumpstart with how much how many things you can draw a straight line back to the mouth and poor dental care.
Howard: Well his website is www.thementalhealthcomedian.com and Frank King you can follow them on Twitter @themhcomedian for the mental health comedian and his TED talk it's called A Matter of Laugh or Death. In fact you know on your on your TED talk their's a class exam you go to YouTube you can take that and drop it into a post on Dentaltown because on the on the YouTube there's a share button and it'll show the link if you're texting it or tweeting it out but that share also shows the embed and on Dentaltown there's a YouTube icon, you click that YouTube icon and drop the embed deal and then it'll be on Dentaltown and I mean you don't need more views that I got 20,000 but I sure wish more dentists would hear your TED talk and it was just an honor and a privilege that you would come on my show today and talk to my homies on their commute to work. Frank seriously thanks for all that you do for dentistry for mental health for depression and suicide.
Frank: My pleasure thanks for having me on Howard.