Even when you have the means to have it all (money, fame, and time to do the things you love), at the end of the day, you are still human.
Hollywood actor, Ignacio Serricchio, shared his human story with us. We talked about embracing the unknown, educating ourselves on mental health as a fundamental step to breaking the stigma, and being open-minded with everyone we meet.
people, mental health, talk, feel, sicily, therapy, question, therapist, brother, life, educate, small town, learn, person, lied, true, depression, realize, little bit, day
Ignacio, Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski
Nicki Kirlin 00:03
Excellent. Well, we’re so excited to have be having this conversation with you today. And we want to start out by asking you a basic question that we kind of ask all of our guests, which is tell us a little bit about yourself. So tell us, maybe your hometown if you have a fun fact, what you’re up to,
please? Sure, I’ll give you the short version ish. I was born in south of one of situs, Argentina. I left when I was 11. And we went to Mexico City and we were there for about seven and a half years. And then from there went to New York, where I went to Syracuse University and studied theater. And then my parents my father got transferred to LA fortunately because it It went well with the my career and what I was attempting to do. I had started in theater and then when I came to LA, started doing TV and and film. That’s the very short version of it all. and fun. Fact is I live in Sicily, half the year, maybe more than half there. Yeah, in a small town of 3000 people. Oh my goodness. And I have no car there and I walk and ride my bicycle everywhere and yeah, and we and we have a scooter like because you have because you have to
Nicki Kirlin 01:38
Yeah. We it’s a it’s a small town. Like I said everybody’s most people are related. With some of my friends, you can tell that their parents are related. Yeah. Some some one wrong there. Yeah, we just all know each other, which can be a blessing and a curse. But yeah, it’s just it just it’s slower. In terms of, yeah, just life goes by a little bit slower. And it just, I don’t know if it’s with age or what, but I’d like it. I like it. I need, I need nature and I need to. I like it then in the moment. You know, Hey, what are you doing? Nothing. Let’s get coffee. And within five minutes, we’re getting coffee. I you know, unfortunately, in LA, for example, you end up making a coffee date within like, for in a week. It’s like, let’s have coffee next Thursday at three. And I’m like, I don’t even know if I want to see you next Thursday. I don’t know if I want to talk. I don’t know, I wanted to see you now. But again, it’s it’s tough. So with a small town like that, you you really get the the the small town experience. I love being over there because it’s my it’s my what we say in Spanish cabin, lay it around the thighs cover water, which is when your feet are planted in you, you know, just everything just slows down and you don’t need to be rushing it all the time.
Nicki Kirlin 03:15
I know it’s so true. It’s such a like the values are so different. Right? Like the whole the whole the perspective on on what what your day contains is totally different from what we experienced here. Yeah, like it’s and I think that comes down to that that core value system of the things that are important, right, so it’s totally different way of life. Yeah.
Yeah, it is. I mean for me, it’s a balance to be honest because there is no perfect place and as much as I love that simplicity and that, you know people a lot of people working the land and you know, the guy next to us has 300 sheep that go by the property every single day. That in one hand, it can be very nice, that kind of simplicity, that kind of transparency that you get from the person. On the other hand, Sicily because I live there there’s a lot of social things that need to they need to come to this century and they need to evolve and advance because they’re still stuck in the old ways in terms of relationships, female male, right? So no place is perfect on one hand that simplicity is nice on the other. You know sometimes it’s frustrating to to have to tell somebody that’s not how you talk to a woman or that’s not that’s not what you do with garbage you don’t just throw it in the side of the road. You know, then you go to Vancouver where let’s separate it into 42 different which is beautiful, which is awesome. So it’s a balance and I’m I’m lucky that I get to live both you know both worlds and have both perspectives because It is about I need I need a little bit of both.
Nicki Kirlin 05:03
Yeah, no, it’s true. And that’s, that’s so true to life in general, right? Like the approach that you take life, you have to have bits and pieces of all of that just to, you know, have a wholesome experience of experiencing. Yes.
Yeah. And it is in I’m very aware that it is a, I am fortunate that I get that I get to experience that, due to, you know, the nature of my my career, I would say, and, you know, not not everybody gets that. So I’m very aware of that. And I take advantage of it so that I can have that balance between very open minded and very, you know, very open minded conversations that can sometimes get really exhausting. Yeah. Because you say something, I don’t know. Something about Oh, yeah, we need to, you know, like I talked to my sister, my sister is LGBTQ. You know, she’s married to a woman and I remember talking to somebody that I said, Yeah, I I’m all for rights and people in the LGBTQ community, and somebody said, it’s LGBTQ plus, and I was I Alright, you missed, you missed the point, like pick your battles. Um, so sometimes that kind of that kind of get getting really frustrating. And you go, let me go back to Sicily, where it’s just a little bit more simple. And you know what I mean? So it’s, it’s all a balance, and then I’ll be in Sicily, and somebody says something really homophobic. And I turn around, I go, Dude, come on, 2021, you can say, Sorry, can I cuss? I just, yes. But anyway, balance balances, the balance is the key word.
Jenna Fortinski 06:52
It’s so true. And I think like this past year and a half with, you know, the pandemic and COVID I think everybody has kind of learned a lesson a little bit with, you know, slowing down in life, we’ve all been forced to slow down, or stop doing so much. Right. And I agree, and I think that is I’m hoping that people are seeing the value in, you know, slowing things down, having time for family having time for, to just let things happen, rather than planning, you know, months in advance or weeks in advance.
So I think that there’s, you know, having lived in LA most of the time, there’s this pressure that I want to say we put on ourselves, but it doesn’t have to do with the, with the, the infrastructure and, and everything around us and how we’re marketed and how we have to always be on the go. And we’re kind of forced to compete with each other for no reason and, and so we are a product of that environment. And I’m lucky that I come from an immigrant family and I come from a small town where, when I came to LA, I said, Okay, I see the pace here. I’m never gonna let that you know, mess with my, my principles and my values. But it’s not easy. If you are born and raised here, or born raised in America, in North America, where, you know, you’re just told to, like, let’s go compete, you got to work hard. And again, that can also It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. But it can drive people insane. And then you get to 5055. And all that money you made you need it for to pay for your health care, because you’ve had three heart attacks. And you’ve you know, and you’ve gone crazy and you haven’t spent any time with anybody and you don’t know, you haven’t traveled and but you got that new car that your neighbor God, so it’s kind of Yeah, I hope I hope that it that people were able to find a balance more than anything. Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 09:01
And I think you touched on something that’s so important, which is you know, you like who you are at your core, you maintain that know like, despite you know, what, what you were facing and even the industry that you chose to go into you always you always kept that and you always made sure that you respected that and you honor that so I think that’s like that’s that’s unbelievable that you’re able to do that in the face of in that industry and being right like that.
Yeah, I think I think especially I can I can speak for my industry where I think I’ve noticed in a lot of other friends of mine who feel this needs to just, you know, they always have to be working or are Oh man, now I gotta get another project. And yeah, I’m lucky that for me, number one was always my family, my friends and an experiencing life. So I always thought of my career. My career is going to fund my life. That’s how I saw it. I’m going to love it, I’m gonna have fun with it, but it’s going to fund my activities. And I noticed it wasn’t about quantity, it was more about quality. And I noticed that when all my affairs, my personal affairs were in order, then I came to set happy and I and I did the best work and I enjoyed it. And, but I gave the same, I never, I never give gave more value to a project than the rest of the things in my life. So the minute a project was over, I was like, oh, man, I can’t wait to go work on my garden. And I put that same love and passion to my garden as I did to a movie with Clint Eastwood and I put the same love and passion to, to whatever rock climbing mountain biking is, I do too. Because then you’re just, you’re just waiting for the next thing and you’ll you’ll never be satisfied. And then you’re, you know, you’re competing, I guess, against yourself. And it’s always worked out in the sense that in the past, when I’ve said, Look, I need to go see my grandma. So if you guys can’t push my shooting dates, then this project is just not meant to be. Because the way it’s going to let me know that it’s meant to be is if I get to be with my grandmother, and then come to work. And I’ve had I this just happened with this last project that I’m doing where I’ve been wanting to meet my girlfriend’s grandmother. And because of the last two years, I haven’t been able to, and I told the production, I say, Look, they wanted me there earlier, and I said, I have these this trip to go meet her grandmother. And I’m not going to cancel it. Because there’s no amount of money and nothing in the world that could pay for the guilt or for what I would feel if anything, God forbid were to happen to her in the next year. And it worked out. But it’s never a matter of like, if I don’t get the job. It’s I don’t regret it because my priority was meeting her grandma. Yeah. Right. And if it wasn’t, this job was gonna be another one. But at least I can be at peace. Knowing that I got to meet her and I spend some time with her. And I’ll probably spend time with her next year as well. But yeah, that was a very important to me. Yeah,
Nicki Kirlin 12:19
that’s, and that’s, that’s so rare these days to hear, you know, to hear people placing that much value on, you know, the critical relationships that we have in our lives because we get so busy and so consumed with other things that are going on, right, so
Jenna Fortinski 12:37
yeah, and it’s living according to your values. Yeah, right. And that’s how and that’s what creates happiness is you know, I am living a life that aligns with my values and my core beliefs and, like I really true that I really truly believe that that’s what creates happiness for a person because you can see in somebody that if they’re living according to their values, you see it like you see it in how they present themselves and what they talk about and, and, and how they live their life. And there’s no there’s no dollar amount that can ever Trump, that type of happiness, right?
Nicki Kirlin 13:12
Yeah. Okay, so still on the theme of talking about family, I wanted you to share a little bit about your story and I know that you’ve shared elsewhere about your story with your brother. So would you mind just sharing a little bit with our listeners, future listeners, about your your relationship with your brother and maybe then anything that you want to share? about him?
Yeah. My brother was is the, my was even when he was physically here. It was always like, felt like it was with my guardian angel. And he’s, there’s 13 younger than me and and since the day he was born, I felt like my life had a new purpose, a more clear purpose. And then almost six years ago, he he died of suicide because he was battling depression. And it’s been I mean, it’s been six years of new purpose in life. I mean you over time you start to realize the gifts that that he left me in you don’t notice that at the beginning. So the beginning I was very, very, very depressed and I was in a very dark place. I yeah, I just didn’t know what my life was going to be like. I didn’t know what the point was. I didn’t. I never tend to do any lot of anything for me. I have, it’s kind of my sister always tells me that and, and my friends told me that tells me that she’s like you, you always want to be taking care of others or doing things for others. And I think I it’s like that inner struggle going like that I’m fine. I’m not, I’m not I’m not here to serve me. Which can be damaging because sometimes I forget about my needs. And so it has been a lot of that a lot of learning how to take care of myself and, and, and I feel guilty. You know, guilt was my biggest enemy. I finally did this one backpacking trip, with the purpose of talking to my brother and trying to establish this new relationship that we’re going to have that wasn’t physical, more spiritual. And I also decided that I was done with feeling guilty, because it just eats you up. And my therapist helped me a lot with that. And I run ironically, so my, my little brother, a year before he passed away, he introduced me to this dog hero who, I wasn’t ready to have another dog. I had one for 17 years. And my brother said, Look, this dog is just just perfect for you. And I said, Well, look, I’ll come see him. And my brother said, Yeah, they they took him away from this guy. I was beating him. He’s only a year ish old. And I think, and I said, Oh, God, come take a look. But I can’t promise within 20 minutes of seeing the dog, he was in my truck and and for the last seven years, that dog has been I’ve been very dependent on that dog. He, I saved him. Then he saved me a year later, he gave me a reason to get out of bed reason to keep
keep being responsible for another being. Yeah, I’ve been very dependent. He’s kind of been my crutch. And
a month ago, he passed away. My dog Yeah. And, and the first. I was in Sicily, and my parents called me and said, He’s really sick overnight. Because you know, animals don’t tell you that they’re feeling a certain way. And when I first heard about it, he was so triggering, and it took me back to the night that my little brother passed. And I felt like I was losing my brother again. And I lost. I just lost it. And I was, I was very, very, very scared. Because I was scared. I was like, What am I going to do without him? or What am I going to do? Yeah, how am I supposed to I was doing so well, I was I was happy. I was finding balance. And now this. So that was for like a couple of days of just pure desperation. And then talking to my sister’s, my voice of reason. And my girlfriend who was incredible and very supportive. You know, they both first made me see, look, it’s not the same thing. Like we’ve already been through the worst, this is not the same thing. And my sister was the one that said, Look, she said, I think I think hero feels that you’re ready to take care of yourself, you’re ready to not be dependent, and you’re ready to maybe put a little bit of that love and that responsibility onto yourself. So that helped me a lot because I wanted to, I wanted to process it that way. Because I was very aware that no, this is not the same as losing my brother. It was just too much of a connection. You know, I flew back to LA and got to see him the last four days and then I had to put him down because I also didn’t want to be selfish. So it’s been very interesting. I just came back to LA for a couple of days and it’s the first time I’ve been back without hero. So I’ve been spending a lot of time in this house trying to figure out what the next what the next stage looks like in terms of taking care of myself. You know there’s there is a freedom that you get when you relate when you when you don’t have responsibility. It’s just the truth is not that it’s one is not better than the other But there is a freedom and and it’s still very odd to me, you know, leaving the house and knowing that I don’t have to come back at a certain time. There’s It’s bitter at times, but there is that sweetness where that’s like, okay, just do whatever you want to do. And it’s very weird for me to do to not care for some, some something or someone else does level, you know what I mean? I’m not talking about. So that’s kind of where I am now. I’m trying to, yeah, navigate this new stage. But, you know, there’s, it’s all positive things. I mean, I didn’t have one second, just bear with that dog. We did everything we can go over, we went to Canada six times, we drove and camped up of the Pacific coast. And now, one of the great things that I’m realizing is my three angels, which is my brother, and my grandmother and my dog. You know, I came to this house, and I realized, Oh, you know, that phrase, Home is where the heart is, it’s, it’s never been more clear, like I could go anywhere in the world. And I feel like I got everything with me. Even if I have nothing, and that is a that’s a very, very good feeling. Because I was it the house, my mom and, and I pulled out this box of, I used to write a lot of letters to classmates when I was younger, my grandma, and I love them. And I have pictures from when I was younger. And my mom’s like, Oh, we can put this here. I said, you know, I’m either you take it, or I’m just gonna throw it out. She said, Nah, boy, do you throw it out. I said, Mom, if the three most important people in my life are not here, and I take them with me everywhere I go, what makes you think I need pictures of from my childhood? Like, I’ve, I’ve already tapped into that. It’s like, I don’t know. It’s like, Hey, I’m Superman. I can fly. Why? Why am I gonna take the bus? Yeah, yeah. And I’m so
Nicki Kirlin 22:18
know that, like, what an amazing journey you’ve been on, right? It’s, it’s, it’s incredible. You, you know, you’ve processed your way, and still processing your way through this mass amount of massive amount of grief and that you’ve, you know, you found little pieces to kind of help you along that journey. And you know, now that that journey ever comes to an end because it doesn’t, right, but you know, you’re you’re finding your way through it. And that’s, that’s, you know, it’s it’s, it’s fantastic that you’ve you’ve, you have the right resources and the right tools to help you kind of find your way through that. Right. And so we know that, that your fierce mental health advocate, just based on
your work, actually, ironically, I didn’t do this on purpose. But this is my, my sweater. I have a band, and we do fundraisers. And this is
Jenna Fortinski 23:12
Oh, that’s amazing.
Nicki Kirlin 23:13
Yeah, perfect. Yeah. So um, and so you know, and we, we want to thank you, first of all, for, you know, for being a voice in, you know, in this time of trying to break the stigma about mental health. And I guess my question for you then is, what did that journey kind of look like for you in terms of prior to your brother’s passing? Was it? Did you have a different perspective on mental health before that kind of happened? Or have you always kind of been open?
Nicki Kirlin 23:48
no, I was from zero to 100.
Nicki Kirlin 23:53
I didn’t have I didn’t have a I didn’t have a good judgment to it. I didn’t understand depression. I did realize, after my brother passing, and after heavily educating myself, that I was like, Oh, wait, I’ve, I’ve been going through this. And I never knew how to put a label to it. I also grew up in a, in a time and country and culture that was very macho, driven, and Don’t cry. Don’t be a girl, da da da. So yeah, when I just started learning and educating myself about it, even even if I didn’t, let’s say I didn’t become a mental health advocate. It just, it just made me a more empathetic person. And I love that my instinct immediately is to be empathetic with anyone. And that’s I love that I love that that’s a part of me now you know even when it comes to you know people that were for you know, on a different political point of view or different I try very hard first to to be to find to be empathetic and to realize that we all have different backgrounds and and we all have insecurities and I think a lot of a lot of times so much is stems from fear and insecurity so much like and I and that I learned from being bullied I was bullied so much then that that also led me further now that that kind of aggression and and or any kind of discrimination and active kind of active rejection of other cultures or other genders or other races it all stems from fear they really it really does because race is a social construct so you’re just afraid of something and it just manifests its way though. So yeah, so I I learned so much and the more and it’s an everyday thing every day I try to be more empathetic every day I try to be a better communicator but a better listener and and you know, I’ve traveled so much around the US backpacking and camping and and then you’re running to people and at the core of it all people just want the same thing they want to be at peace and tranquility and they want their family to be healthy and that’s it. I think the rest is all the rest is a distraction. I think that when Yeah, the rest is just like because we because we don’t have a great infrastructure when it comes to mental health services. Then you got to hang on to something and it’s like how do I how do I express all this fear and this insecurity or this frustration shit let’s do that let’s do anti vaccine fucking alright let’s do that. Let’s Let’s hate on on a group okay? It’ll this this is the flavor of the week. What is it Mexicans Okay, let’s hate on Mexicans. What’s the flavor next week? Oh, today is that I don’t I genuinely don’t think and it could be a little bit of my hopeful belief but I don’t think that people are like genuinely hating against a Mexican I think it’s just they’re just looking for a way out of that frustration are the bad week are the things that are happening in their lives. So I that’s my, what I mean by my my empathetic approaches, I don’t engage in any kind of argument or discussion, or I don’t try to say, Well, my opinion, I asked questions, because I, when you dig deep down and you ask people questions, the truth comes out. And you’ll be surprised. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine.
I said, Hey, are you gonna get back to me? And he said, No. And when he said, No, one friend of mine say, Oh, you are Nydia, because Lala and I said, slow down. I said, Hold on a second. You asked one question. Are you getting back in? And he said no. And from that, you’ve just already you’ve crucified Him and you’ve made up your mind. I said, you got to ask questions. If you really want to know and be educated, you ask you don’t wait your turn to give an opinion. So I asked my friend, I said, Okay, so how can we not get vaccinated? So Well, I just don’t trust doctors. Interesting. I said, What is it about doctors you don’t trust? He said, Well, it’s been stuff from my past that I just I said, Okay, can you share what stuff from your past? And he said, Yeah, I blame doctors for my third killing my mother and my father. And I said, See, all of a sudden, from the initial reaction of You stupid idiot. After five questions, I said, Yeah, I understand. He’s not against science. He just has this one personal experience that scares him. Eventually, he got vaccinated, but I never, but I asked and I said, Okay, see, I can empathize with that. Because I’ve never been through that. And if I can imagine that, if, if I had been if it had been a personal thing for me, just like mental health is, you have a different opinion about it. But if we don’t ask and if it’s just a battle of opinions, and just Just you never get anywhere.
Nicki Kirlin 30:02
So, absolutely no, like, just imagine how different the world would look, if we all had a more empathetic approach to everything that we do. Right. And, and, you know, the saying is don’t judge a book by its cover for a reason, right? Like everybody has their own story and they have their own, you know, traumas and tragedies that happened that bring us to who we are, you know who that person is sitting in front of you. So it’s Yeah, that approach I think, is the right one to take. And if we can all practice that even just a little bit more like that’s, that’s ideal, right? And yeah, I
mean, something that happens to me, and I think it’s a it’s an example of how I always think about it this way. I said, Oh, he said, What would happen if I was stranded in an island with, let’s say, someone that I don’t personally think I would have something in common with, let’s say, Trump? Okay, no, no, for let’s say, President Trump, if I have to judge him, based on only what I’ve seen on TV and everything, I would say, yeah, that’s not my type of person. But we’re stranded on an island, just me and him, we have to survive. I can’t imagine all that shit going away, because it would be useless. And then at the core of it, I think at the core of it humans are that that inner child is still very much alive. And we all fear, we all want our mommies when we’re sick. And we all and I’m like, if I was in an island, I will probably be like, dude, I don’t care about everything else. Let’s, let’s work together and get out of here. Yeah, yeah. So that’s kind of what I think about when I when I encounter somebody that initially I don’t agree with my way to approach that empathy is going to hold on, this is still his soul. This is still an entity that was a child ones, and we’ve all been tampered and we’ve all been fed, through marketing and through brainwashing. So if this kid was to, and we were being a playground, we’d be getting along just fine. Yeah,
Nicki Kirlin 32:06
that’s right. Exactly.
Jenna Fortinski 32:09
I think people really want to, like I think at the core of everything, like you said, is people want to be seen and heard people want to be validated. And a lot of the fears that you talk about is about the fear of the unknown, right? Like when we talk about stigma with mental health, or we talk about you know, racism, or, or judgments, or whatever it is, it’s all about the the fear of the unknown, because we’re judging something that we really truly know nothing about a lot of the time because we’re not educated in it. Right?
Well, and also, humans, we don’t like discomfort. Yeah, we hate discomfort. So if we feel a little bit of a chill, we put on a sweater for a little bit odd turn on the AC. We don’t like discomfort in any way. Yeah. I’ve learned if if you want to quote but I’ve learned I don’t think it’s a quote it’s more of a thought. But one thing that one of my big gifts that that the passing of my brother has left me is that whenever I encounter something uncomfortable now I welcome it with open arms because I know there’s going to be a valuable lesson and I’m going to evolve from this. There is a quote that my mother has told me my whole life since I was a kid was you know, the easy things in life don’t last. And we don’t like discomfort. So because we don’t like discomfort. We lash out we don’t know how to live in discomfort. But little Do we know that if we just just hang in there live in the gray for a little bit and live in that discomfort that’s going to that’s what’s going to make you grow and that’s what’s going to really teach you I’ve always said I think it’s easy to have fun it’s easy. I think it’s easier to be happy. I Yes, I remember happy moments but I remember uncomfortable moments way more and the lessons that they’ve taught me and and part of that is there’s no I think the main the main problem mental health issues and mental health is is the lack of of services and the lack of it’s just not into ingrained into our everyday lives in society. So it’s easy to tell somebody you need to you need to learn to love yourself you need to realize that you’re incredible and you’re unique and you need to really need to Yeah, all that is true but if I come out of my house and there’s no pamphlets there’s no there’s no there’s nothing for me to okay I want to okay let’s say yes meekness. I want to learn to love myself. Excuse me, where can I go to learn to love myself? Well, I’m there’s a jewelry store here. For people who want to get married, you know, because you know being single and but if you’re in a couple, then you’ll be happier. There’s a yoga, no, I’m not trying to, I need to I want to learn how to love myself and accept myself. I don’t know what to tell you want to go do therapy for $170 an hour meeting. So, again, it has to start with, with truly with our, with our day to day, it has to start if you go to Disneyland, there’s pamphlets all over the place. And there’s visual stimulation all over the place before you get to Disney. There’s ocean, there’s this, there’s this, there’s this. If I say right now I need I need to go take care of my mental health right now. What if I don’t have Google? What if I’m driving down the street, there’s no one sign that tells me, Hey, come over here for and that’s the problem that we have. I don’t, I don’t care for my future child are my two God daughters, I don’t care if they come home, four years old, and they can count two plus two. But I do care if if they come home and they they they’ve been bullied or they judge someone else or they feel like they can’t, you know, express themselves.
Jenna Fortinski 36:14
Yeah, no, it is. It’s so true. And especially like, Yes, here in Canada, we have, you know, health care system. But it’s like it’s not enough, right? Well, even what we have going on here in Canada, like our resources are depleted. And it is hard to get that support unless you come from a place of privilege, which is associated with money, right? And, and if you’re in that position, I think that you’re maybe less likely to access that support, because the assumption is the money makes you happy. And that’s what, that’s what life is about.
Right? Which is ridiculous. just ridiculous. Because the truth of it is that, you know, talking to my father the other day, he my both my parents are very active. And they both still work because for the most part, they just want to keep that their brain fresh, right? And that was my dad’s biggest worries, like, let’s say to retire next year. He’s like, what the hell am I going to do to keep my brain going? I’ve never, I don’t think there’s a podcast that exists that talks about supermarket. No, because it’s a well, food. Obviously. There’s food everywhere. Yeah. But also, if you’re without your brain, you’re nothing. Yeah. So why is it not in our day to day, I don’t we shouldn’t be we shouldn’t be having this podcast, we shouldn’t have Mental Health Organization’s separate from the government. We shouldn’t, we really shouldn’t. But it is what it is now. And, you know, I the fact that here in the US, I pay, we pay. I think 60% 16% goes to the military and only 5% goes to education. It’s really good. Because like I said, I want a class, I want classes in school to be meditation, I want classes to be critical thinking, a class that talks about respect, just a class that talks about respect what it means a class about loving yourself. But you know, that stuff doesn’t sell here. Mental Health doesn’t sell in a capitalist society. No, that’s right. You know, it’s I think I’m, it’s I’m considered, I guess a would be considered a socialist or something like that, maybe. But in the end, you know, that’s what people want. You know, you don’t want to be a millionaire at 60 with Alzheimer’s, because you know, you’ve been, yeah, because you’ve you’ve just lost memory where your brain stopped working. What’s the hell’s the point? Yeah, exactly. So it’s an ongoing struggle, but for now, we do podcasts and we do fundraisers? And so they make sweatshirts and Yeah, exactly.
Nicki Kirlin 39:13
So my question to you then is kind of considering that that you, you know, comparing, you know, your thoughts on mental health, sort of, before you had the experience with your brother and then after, what would you sort of what do you think would have been helpful for you to hear as a person sort of prior to losing your brother about mental health? Like if it wasn’t something that was you know, a part of your your thinking or you weren’t aware of maybe the struggles you were having, what do you think would have been helpful or what would you have liked to have heard about, about it kind of prior to experiencing that, that major transition in your life?
I think so. We’re I think I would have loved to her to hurt society and doctors to to talk about depression, as a broken foot or a cut in your arm? I would have liked that because I learned that it you know, depression and it’s just not something that you choose, it chooses you and. And, yeah, and in the fact that it’s just today I’m feeling depressed tomorrow might be better. But you know somebody somebody comes with, like I said a torn ankle and they get all the attention in the world and his age is rested, you’ll be fine. Somebody says I have depression. Oh, hey, well, hey, you know Chyna let’s go for a hike. So I would have I would have liked that I would have. I would have liked the Yeah, I would have liked just more public. More public information and obviously acceptance and. And definitely I would love to learn about it in school. Because I think so many people suffer from it, but they have no idea what’s going on with them. And I think what you talked about before the unknown is the worst. And that’s the thing that that happens with depression is that the frustration comes out of not knowing. And I remember my brother would tell me this constantly. He’s like, I just don’t know. He’s like, I don’t know, I love my family. I love my girlfriend. He said I have the best life. He’s like, I just don’t know why I feel the way I feel. And I could see his frustration. And if, you know, if somebody had said, hey, it’s okay, you’re feeling this way? Because it’s an illness, you know? wider. Yeah. So I just a lot of a lot of information that I wish would it would be public and, and just normalized, I think that would have definitely would have helped a lot in my approach to towards talking to him about it. And I started to understand it, but more towards like the last year or so. And that’s part of the guilt that I felt after he he passed away and you know, often sometimes every so often I still do and and so I try to Yeah, I tried to just let people know that the they I mean that they’re not alone is that I 100% understand that they’re there, they’re just not they’re not broken. They’re just you know, they just have a couple bruises and and then more more people and they know are going through it. And I’ve just experienced that. The times that I’ve talked about it openly without chain. I did it once on the on the set of loss and space. Just Just like I will talk about I got a cold I hey, yeah, I was feeling very depressed and have had suicidal thoughts and not only didn’t know on judge, but I had three guys come up to me and be like, dude, I’ve I’ve been trying to talk to someone and then those three ended up going to therapy and but all I needed was somebody just like, give them the Okay, it’s like it’s good. Especially with especially with men, you know? statistically Yeah, man direct suicide more so, yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 43:47
No, and it’s and it’s so true. And I think and we’ve chatted about this in previous podcast episodes but just this whole idea that we don’t typically talk about mental health until there’s a problem right until something is wrong then it’s like oh my god I didn’t even realize that you know that there’s this whole world and there’s this other part of my brain that needs to be cared for just like the the like all the other physical functions of your body right or of your being. So like, like you’re saying how different it would be if we could sort of view mental health in the same perspective as all of the other health concerns that we have. Right? Like it’s just a part of your daily functioning and it’s a part of your regular checkups, right that just it’s we should
have a first aid kit for for mental health and oh,
Nicki Kirlin 44:40
yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Jenna Fortinski 44:41
So it’s yeah,
Nicki Kirlin 44:42
hopefully we can you know, we’re and I, I feel like we’re making that shift. Right. Like and with people so yeah,
yeah, I think we are there. Yeah, there’s a lot of, yeah, there’s a lot of wonderful things happening in that sense. I think this generation is, is a lot more open. about it and and you know now they’re growing up seeing Naomi Osaka who came out and Simone Biles, which I thought was really, really wonderful. And yeah. And yeah, people with platforms that I haven’t. I haven’t followed up. I remember I believe it was Joe Biden’s daughter who said she was going to be working with that that was going to be her sole purpose, I believe was mental health services. I haven’t checked up on that. I remember being very excited about it. And then I feel like a lot of stuff got a lot of my, you know, I was like, Oh, that’s something I care about. Yeah. That’s something that really matters. I don’t think it’ll ever get the attention because all the other crap that’s going on, but I’ve always wondered, I wonder what kind of work she’s doing?
Nicki Kirlin 45:56
Well, I’m sure there’s going to be a shift now to though right with every with all the this the spike in mental health concerns, that’s going to happen because of COVID. I’m sure we’ll see a shift again, of Okay, this is something that we need to talk about. It is something that needs to be that has to have the attention and the resourcing and all of that stuff, right? I hope anyway, said that it’ll be there for people because it’s going to be needed, right? This has not been an experience on anyone. So yeah. So I did want to just chat a little bit with you about your sort of your experience of going through therapy, if you wouldn’t mind to share with us just your thoughts on kind of what you expected going into it. And then and then how it helped you? Was it you know, the therapist themselves that like just who they were as a person? Was it specific strategies or tools? Or what like, what was it that was helpful to you about that experience?
Yeah, I am, I was against it for about two or three years after my brother passed, because I didn’t want to share my brother with anyone. Okay, so just like I wouldn’t talk to therapists, I wouldn’t talk. I was, I would hang out with my family. But it was hard for me to look them in the eye, it was hard for me to adjust to this fact that we were four again, or not five. And I wouldn’t mention him. Because I had a very unique relationship with them. We were 13 years apart, but we were like twins, and we just really entertained each other understood each other. And I always felt like he was the one that knew me and accepted me 100% for who I am. So I didn’t want to share him with anyone. I didn’t want to share stories of him and everything. But I felt that I was distancing myself from my family I felt and I knew that it wasn’t their fault. And it was, it was second season a loss in space where I had a terrible week, and I had a lot of panic attacks. Like, you know, on the floor couldn’t breathe. And I remember one particular where I was on the floor, and I couldn’t breathe and I was crying. And deep down I was like some good is coming. Like there’s a reason I’m on the floor here shaking. My dog is licking my face. Like there’s something some good is about to happen. And when I was done with that whole week, I said, I got I’m gonna do therapy. And I went to therapy for not for comfort. But I went for tools. I was I knew I made a list of the things that I needed to work out. And there’s a quote that I love that says, it’s amazing how much you’ve changed since I’ve changed. And so when I went to therapy, I didn’t say I have a problem with my dad and my mom, I said, I need to change my approach because they’re actually amazing. They’ve done nothing wrong. No one’s done anything wrong. I need to figure this out for myself. And I went to look for a therapist, I said I’d like someone that does have a little bit of experience with suicide. And I knew that finding a therapist was kind of like dating, where you might go through seven or eight or 100 100 of them. No, but you go through a bunch of Yeah. You go through a bunch of just to figure out who you click with. I fortunately clicked with my first one. She’s a little bit younger than me actually. I do have an it’s easier for me to talk to women. I think because I grew up with very, very strong women. I also I’m there. I don’t know what the best way to say is I’m very in touch with my femininity. I let’s just say I have a lot of, I’ve always I’ve never have had a problem being emotional vulnerable. So I connected a lot with women, all the people that work for me, are women. It’s just easier for me, I feel like there’s less bullshit. So I saw my therapist, I told her, I said, Look, I’m here for looking for tools. I’m not, I’m not I’m probably not going to cry in these sessions. Because I’ve done all that and I’m going to do it, but I need tools, I need you to give me homework, I need you to break it down. And saved my life, saved my life saved my relationship with my family saved me from going down a darker hole of just guilt and and not appreciating myself and not valuing myself. Not feeling like I deserve to be here and yeah, save me. But the more I do therapy them I To be honest, the more it frustrates me that it’s not available to anyone. It makes it genuinely, it makes no sense to me. Just like it doesn’t make sense to me that, that there’s people that die of hunger, it doesn’t make sense to me that, that people don’t have mental health just included when you’re born. Yeah, it should just be I don’t know, I feel like you’re born is like, okay, cool, you’ll never go hungry. And you’ll always will always check in on you. And I and the rest, do whatever you want. And good luck. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But
But you know, I found it that in order not to go crazy and not to try to change the entire world by me creating an organization are doing these big things, I realized that one on one, one on one, when you talk one on one to person, and you affect that person, and hopefully and they learned and they go and they do the same. And I realized that I only have I have full access and reach to, to the people around me and to the few not so few. But people that ride me through Instagram, and I try to take my time to kind of, you know, share my experience. Other than that, I that’s um, that’s what I’m good at. And that’s what I think I’m good at that one on one and I’m good at. And that’s an approach that I realize it. It doesn’t feel like it’s out of my control, right? Because nobody can tell me, oh, you can’t sit with such person and talk. Right? But if you have to do a fundraiser it actually it gets lost a little bit, it gets superficial and it’s like and you’re worrying about what kind of play to what kind of food and when it comes down to just listen, just let’s sit down and have something give someone the space. And let’s start from that from the basics.
Jenna Fortinski 53:22
I think that’s what I love most about my job as a psychologist is that, you know, there’s
Yes, my sister. My sister, my sister is a therapist, and she’s a she’s a psychology teacher, Lola Myrna Oh,
Jenna Fortinski 53:38
very nice. Sorry. No, that’s okay. No, I was gonna say as a psychologist like, yes, like we can try to impact as many as possible. But what I realized when I am doing those one on one sessions, or having these one on one talks with people is that, you know, just that one conversation, seeing how much change happens for that one person, right? And then, you know, your hope is, is that that one person then goes to another person, right? And then you hope you create, like this chain of, you know, people creating a better understanding. So you don’t like having one conversation at a time is impactful, right? And it does change lives. And it’s, it can create this beautiful chain of effects. Right? And, and that’s what I love about the mental health piece is that it is so impactful, and it can be in a very short period of time. It’s not a huge commitment, right?
No, and also you don’t, I don’t, I just don’t think that in order to really get to, to the bottom of things. Again, a fundraiser is great for other things. It’s just not my forte. my forte is sitting down and talking to people for as many hours as they want. And that’s when you get to the bottom of things because you’re building trust and you’re sharing and it’s two very different approaches, I just realized that, that so what I’ll do is I’ll I’ll, I’ll donate and I’ll send people to organizations. But me personally, Ignacio, it’s more of the more of the one on one, you know, and even in my town in Sicily, we’re going to therapy still seen as a very, you know, it’s very stigmatized still. How do I make a change? I just very openly say, Yeah, I have therapy today, guys. I can’t have dinner before, whatever. And, and I’ve noticed I’ve noticed the town and I noticed my friends watching me in a kind of weird how, how would it happens, but it’s, it’s kind of like they go, Okay, so let’s see, he’s happy, he’s successful. He stays in shape. And he does therapy, and he’s very comfortable with it. Maybe there’s something to it. It’s it’s really how basic our brains are in a way to Yeah, that we kind of, sometimes we stem, you know, and I like to be that example to especially the men, you know, around our town. So,
Nicki Kirlin 56:06
yeah. Okay, so my last question for you then is, I want to, I guess, it can be different pieces. But I’m thinking one piece is what like, what’s that main message that you’re sharing with people when they’re reaching out to you? And they’re and they’re struggling? Or they’re sharing with you that they have challenges? What are you choosing to share with them? And I’ll leave it at that answer that one, and I’ll follow up with my other question.
I think it depends on the situation depends on the person and what they’re going through, I do find that I find myself using a different, let’s just put it this way. It’s all in the mental health language, I use a different dialect, depending on the region. In the end, is how can I try through either a message or through a quick answer? How do I let the person know that they’re not alone? That someone that a lot, that a lot of people are going through something like this, and that they’re not broken? And that it’s not. And I also, I also, I am also empathetic to the suicidal thoughts. I don’t ignore them. I don’t avoid them. I, I very much. acknowledge them. And I don’t I say yeah, I mean, I’ve had, I’ve gone through it, too. So I just, yeah, that’s I just try to just just try to let them know, it’s like, Hey, don’t be fooled by the career, or the fact that I’m on Netflix. Or done. Do not be fooled by any of it. By any guy. You know, I’m a small town kid, I still have a very small town mentality. And yeah, and I try not to lie, I try not to. Yeah, to be as honest as possible with with my own roller coaster. So that it doesn’t feel like a super like a balloon that says Get well soon. I know.
Nicki Kirlin 58:43
I know when there’s an because also
they’re bad for the ocean. Yeah.
Jenna Fortinski 58:50
In case anyone is wondering,
we had touched up on that.
Nicki Kirlin 58:55
That’s the next step in southern ocean. No, but I think like and what you’re getting at is, you know, being an another authentic human being or somebody else like a place for creating that.
And I think the the authenticity i what i mean by often Yeah. And what I mean by authenticity is, is the authenticity of sharing my insecurities of the authenticity of the journey and the authenticity of have even the little the small petty stuff that I struggle with, on a daily basis. And I very Yeah, I try to very quickly break and i think i based on my interactions with people, people immediately when they approached me, I noticed that it’s not the typical, oh my god, I gotta take a picture, whatever, because I I try to make I try to make a point of letting people know quickly is like, Hey, you know, it’s like I see you, where we really are the same. Yeah. I try to make a point of that very quickly. Just so they so there’s comfort and there’s no because you know we’re there is so much pressure. Now I was talking to someone the other day that I felt. Speaking of, let’s say, the American dream, I genuinely, I asked some of my American friends I said, What is the American Dream now? And they’re like, I don’t know, they feels unreachable. It feels like the the American Dream is just too expensive. Based on what is out there, and based on what we now consider success. So yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 1:00:56
Okay, so then my last question for you. And I promise so you lied.
figure of authenticity.
Nicki Kirlin 1:01:03
I did say there was gonna be maybe two parts. Yeah, I didn’t fully lie. Maybe just like half lied.
Less, at least your natural blonde. So at least you’re authentic in that way, right? Oh, the listener? Is not that true? I’ll take it though. No, so
Nicki Kirlin 1:01:29
my case of my promise, my last question is, what is what is your one message for all all the listeners or your followers or whoever about mental health? What is like, if you could sum, make it into one statement. And we make it really hard? If you make it into one statement? Well,
educate yourself. Yeah, especially for those on the outside, who are trying to grasp it and try to understand it, and who have either someone in their close circle or in their households are going through it. I know the frustration that one feels when they don’t understand. So just like with anything, the best way to do it? Well, the best way to do is educate yourself, that’s the best way to, to understand it. And that’s something that I try to do a lot with people is those who don’t understand or say, Oh, my son is is but I don’t get I said, Look, once you educate yourself, and you learn this new language, because it is another language. It’s truthfully and figuratively and metaphorically, another language because I’ve educated people about saying, died of suicide instead of committed suicide. And I’ve explained the difference. And how little words can make all the difference in the world how, when I was going through my worst times after my brother passed, and people would say, Oh, you have to do therapy, my initial reaction was I don’t have to do shit. And then I learned the importance of not using words like have or should or need, but rather, look, this worked for me. Because when you say have insured, you’re saying, Oh, so there’s no other choice. So you have all the answers in the world. And I’m a broken little bird. And you’re perfect. That’s that’s just how, the, that’s how we take it. Right. So that’s what I would say, I would say, just educate yourself. And I’m speaking more to the people who have never, if people have never experienced it, or have someone they know that is going through it. Just Yeah, learn about it, read about it. And, and you’ll be surprised you’ll you’ll have the tools to and you’ll be surprised how easy it is through a couple of sentences and, and properly structured questions how all of a sudden the person will open up to you and feel safe. And and yeah, it’s not as complicated as as, as it feels when you don’t know. And this goes back to the unknown, right? Yeah, that’s the title of the episode. Embrace the unknown.
Jenna Fortinski 1:04:18
Okay, I lied on done.
Nicki Kirlin 1:04:20
I’m writing it down. Yeah,
I get I get credit for writing. I really embrace the unknown. Yes. Don’t you worry. But yeah, that’s that’s what I would say. Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 1:04:30
No, and I think it’s, it’s fantastic and wise advice, because it’s such a fundamental piece that’s so important and critical, and it’s something that everybody can do. We can all do that, right?
I mean, listen, we all go down the rabbit hole when all of a sudden we have a strange rash in our grind, and we go down to, we go down with the web, and we’re like, okay, rash, laugh. Grind inch from scrotum. What’s up again?
Nicki Kirlin 1:05:01
We don’t count on images yeah yeah, we we become
detectives we want to find out about that 1x and we want we put all that effort well do the same with with your brain. Yeah. Somebody else’s do with your brain because we’re all susceptible to it. Yeah. I agree so Google down the your brain screaming that’s that’s the that’s the that’s the title of the episode. It edge. Learn about your brain sperm. We need to stop it.
Jenna Fortinski 1:05:38
What a way to end
Nicki Kirlin 1:05:40
really thoughtful warm and fuzzy conversations.
See what you did there the fuzzy no anyway. Come on, you guys. So funny. Oh, I get this.
Nicki Kirlin 1:06:01
What would we do without humor though? Yes. Like,
like, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. When you laugh at stuff you take away its power.
Jenna Fortinski 1:06:11
Yes. Totally. Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 1:06:14
Okay, well, thank you so much. Oh, fantastic.
No, thank you guys for writing me. I feel I feel honored. I feel listen anytime I do a podcast or a talk or whatever I do, it feels it feels like I immediately think of my brother and I’m like dude, like, you know like this one’s for you. So that so if we can thank you guys for doing this. And amazing work and and all the best and we’ll stay in touch
Nicki Kirlin 1:06:45
sounds sounds fantastic. Thank you.