Vala Zupko took the stage at our May 26th Thursday Gathering. She delivered a very personal testimony about her years of abuse throughout her childhood, some of the traumatic events she experienced, her battles with mental illness, and how art has been her personal refuge for it all. After seeing what art has done and continues to do for her mental health, Vala’s plans are to get her Master’s in Fine Arts so that she can teach others about the beauty of art and help people develop an appreciation for it.
“I’m healthy and I’m balanced and it’s all because of art,” Vala said during her talk.
In continuation of the theme of mental health, Cliff Jones and Alex Koupal shared a dialog on the topic. Cliff, founder of The Clarity Channel, told his personal story of his feelings of failure and guilt in his journey to become a successful entrepreneur, and his turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with these feelings. After witnessing his son go down this same path of self-destruction, Cliff founded The Clarity Channel to give people room to talk about their struggles, and to share his own. He has created a Facebook group for The Clarity Channel and even has a Youtube channel to help promote it for those who need the services. As of now the Youtube channel has 234 subscribers and the Facebook group has a total of 161 members.
“I started The Clarity Channel, and it’s not business, it’s advocacy. And I started it so that I could talk about my experience like we do in rooms of recovery.”
While these topics were difficult for some of our speakers, they were also able and willing to speak candidly about their trials and tribulations, and are now trying to help others who may be on the same path as they were years ago.
Lastly, Dr. Ignazio Piras, Research Assistant Professor at TGen’s Neurogenomics Division and the lead author for their study, shared with us his team’s recent discoveries into genetics and suicide. Dr.Piras and his team found that there were “reduced expressions” in different genes, according to samples taken from those who died by suicide. Dr. Piras hopes that these findings will help experts develop “predictive models” of suicide risk for those who suffer from mood disorders.