Psychiatrist Featured at Upcoming Peace Festival

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Psychiatric Times Diversity and Inclusion Editor shares insights on the arts, humanity, and peace.

Now in its 4th year, the Annual International Peace Festival fosters innovative perspectives on peace via the arts. By looking to artists from various disciplines (eg, painting, sculpting, music, photography, and poetry), the festival hopes to cross cultural boundaries and cultivate open dialogues, healing, and reconciliation. With his impressive work in the arts and healing, this year Frank A. Clark, MD, Psychiatric TimesTM Diversity and Inclusion Editor, will be a featured speaker.

We invited Dr Clark to share his thoughts on the festival, and how the arts and psychiatry can and should work closely with one another.

Psychiatric TimesTM: How has the arts helped you to find peace and healing? How do you leverage the arts in your clinical practice to promote understanding and resiliency?

Frank A. Clark, MD: The arts provide a perpetual sense of inward renewal and transformation for my mind, body, and soul. We all seek to find balance and improve self-regulation throughout our lives. Writing poetry has allowed me to strive toward these goals.

I first started writing poetry when I was medical school and used poetry to transcend living with clinical depression and cope with the arduous journey of medical school. It remains a cathartic antidote for me. It also has helped me become more vulnerable in regard to sharing my work with a wider audience.

I encourage my colleagues and my patients to tap into their creative side. We are multi-dimensional beings who must embrace our authenticity as we seek to find meaning and purpose in our lives. The arts serve as the mouthpiece that unites humanity and fosters humility.

PT: What are you most looking forward to?

Clark: This will be my first time attending the International Peace Festival. After the South Carolina Philharmonic world premiere of Three Song to Poems by composer Dick Goodwin, DMA, in February 2022, I have been determined to share my work on a global stage. I received positive feedback from the Festival after they listened to the performance. Months later, much to my surprise, they invited me to be a keynote speaker for the festival.

I am most looking forward to the experience of being at festival that promotes peace and healing through multiple forms of art. I believe it will be a gratifying experience to be in a space that fosters transformation, reconciliation, and love.

PT: Can you tell us a bit about your talk at the festival as well as some of the other speakers?

Clark: I consider it an honor and a blessing to be one of the featured speakers. I will be a part of a panel highlighting the intersectionality between music and medicine specifically focuses on mental health. I plan to talk about my service on the South Carolina Philharmonic board of directors and the creation of the Healing Harmonies Program, which has had a positive impact on patients and their families in our state. I will also talk about how I utilize poetry and music as a psychiatrist to help illuminate several topics in our society, including trauma, Black mental health, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and burnout.

The executive team has put together a diverse group of speakers which include, poets, journalists, musicians, composers, and chief executive officers who are have a shared interest in promoting harmony within humanity.

I recently had the opportunity to join a Zoom call with 2 of the speakers, Clifton Joseph and Kostantinos Matzaleris. In addition to this experience, we have begun brainstorming further ways we can collaborate in the future. They are both change agents who have done remarkable things throughout their careers. (You can read more about them at https://internationalpeacefestival.com/speakers.)I am looking forward to their hearing about their experiences and invaluable contributions to help their communities flourish.

PT: Your commitment to social justice is impressive. Have you always been drawn to issues of “bettering the world?” Do you think it is a common trait among psychiatrists?

Clark: I am of the belief that we are created to serve as vessels of change and light in our communities. Each of us has a gift that can be used to make the world a better place. I believe God has blessed me with the gift of creativity. When I implement this gift, I believe it glorifies Him and blesses others.

Poetry is my way of seeing, hearing, and advocating for humanity. I believe psychiatrists are committed to promoting humanity which beckons social justice.

PT: Any parting thoughts?

Clark: Yes, in the form of a poem:

Love will transcend hate.

Poetry summons healing.

Peace yearns for insight.

The festival takes place September 21 – 25, 2022, in Toronto. Readers interested in attending the festival can learn more at https://internationalpeacefestival.com.

Dr Clark is an outpatient psychiatrist at Prisma Health-Upstate and clinical associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Greenville. He served on the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force to Address Structural Racism Throughout Psychiatry, and he currently serves as the Diversity and Inclusion section editor and advisory board member for Psychiatric TimesTM.