In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the organization for our September 10th event, WIRTH sat down with event keynote and dear pal, Kevin Kokoska. For a quick sneak peek of what’s to come at the event, we chatted about mental health, good cries, and the beauty of life after grief.
If the following doesn’t make you want to rush to your computer to add the event to your September calendar for more from his mouth, we’re fairly certain you’ll at least be intrigued to attend one of Kevin’s one-person plays that are sure to make you chuckle, thoughtfully.
Kevin Kokoska is a Registered Clinical Counsellor. He’s also a creative consultant. And a performer. He’s the kind of guy whose vibrations are sort of contagious as you first meet him. He’s an eccentric soul. But mostly, he’s passionate about catalyzing a positive ripple effect in mental health awareness. And it shows.
Kevin’s performances are based in comedy, with the intention of increasing self-awareness. Ultimately, they have a mental health underpinning. “As time goes by, it just becomes more obvious–the similarities between performance arts and counselling.” He admits, handing me a La Croix in his stylish studio in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. “Theatre helps you to tap into these places within yourself that are tough to go to. In my shows, I’m intentionally getting something from my clinical life across in a creative way.”
We touch on a the dialogue of mental health with friends or family. What about when that dialogue simply doesn’t exist? Kevin explains that when people are struggling with mental health, often the struggle has two layers. Firstly, there are the hardships themselves, and secondly, the packaging of them. That packaging often looks like shame and stigma and feels like having to be alone with those hardships. Kevin’s aim in his talk? To remind people that they can connect to their feelings, in a safe way. On September 10th, he will explore mental health hardships through his own narrative. Not announcing, but rather doing it. “I will be actually showing myself doing the work, rather than talking about the work.” By definition, leading by example with a focus on grief.
So, what can you expect to experience at this event, you might be wondering?
Aside from having a good ol’ time, jamming to tunes and checking out John Kelsey’s beautiful works of art, Kevin anticipates that upon leaving the event, attendees will feel like they’ve truly experienced a space where it was safe to have a conversation about mental health. “That–that lifts something [in you].”
The conversation surrounding hardships and mental health is a difficult conversation to have, but Kevin assures us that once you have it, it feels good. “Now, that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. That grief isn’t there any longer. But you’re just able to then realize, ‘oh yeah, that felt good to be able to talk about’.”
Perhaps you will leave the event and forget about the stories you heard, in time for your next morning coffee. Or perhaps you’ll reach out to someone like Kevin to unpack those stories more. Does it matter? “It’s never going to be a waste of time to have a meaningful conversation around mental health. Even if you’re having the best mental health day of your life. It’s going to hit people in different ways, depending on where they’re at.”
It won’t come as a surprise to most that the focus of Kevin’s talk at the event is grief. After all, this being a big root in WIRTH’s creation.
“Wirth is also trying to create more of ways to connect”, he reminds me. Because ultimately, “we’re all playing catch up [in this space].”
On grief and beauty
“Everyone faces grief in big and small ways. That grief is a big reason why WIRTH exists. When we’re faced with grief, if we follow it all of the way through, and give ourselves permission to process through it, there can be a lot of beauty on the other side. Instead, we often fight not to feel that. A lot of people are working so hard to avoid the grief cloud.”
Kevin assures that coming to counselling will actually feel good. “It’s work, but the talking and feeling your feelings feels good overall. It’s like having a good cry at the movies. The system (your body) wants to feel. If you’re robbing it of one feeling, you’re robbing it of all of the joyous feelings as well. You can’t selectively numb certain feelings.” In other words, maybe we don’t need to be fighting this so much?
“We’re just clearing some stuff out, but we’re not clearing out the memory of a loved one. You won’t forget about them. They’ll still exist in you, just without all of that emotional turmoil…”
Want to hear more? Join us, September 10th, for “The Labels We Wear” – An art exhibit & counselling conversation, here.
Kevin Kokoska, MEd, RCC is psychotherapist, actor, and teacher. He offers clinical counselling and creative consulting services through his private practice, Kokoska & Co., performs one-person plays about mental health, and teaches in the Family & Community Counselling program at Native Education College. His last name, loosely translated, means “broody hen”. You can find out more about Kevin here: www.kokoska.co