Joel Kutz opens his about page on his podcast’s web site with “Everybody has a dark place, yet for many reasons, that can be scary to acknowledge. Let’s stand up together and say we’re not afraid.”
He uses the podcast medium to talk about the taboo subject of mental illness and to have conversations with people who have experienced the darker sides to life and survived. What started as him interviewing friends and friends of friends has morphed into people coming to him from all over the web, from alll sides of mental illness. From his site statistics, he gleaned that many people search iTunes for mental health podcasts and find him. There’s just something that intriguing and fascinating as hearing someone else’s story so similar to your own or maybe different.
Joel Kutz is a Los Angeles-based producer who currently works as a researcher on the Late Late Show with James Corden and has worked for Participant Media, David Letterman, and Larry King. He’s a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. On his own he produces two podcasts the Dark Place and Stories from Today.
He began the podcast in 2015 and 36 some odd conversations later has accrued and arsenal of personal stories about mental health and illness. Before he decided to engage in this endeavor, he volunteered at a suicide crisis line. He liked getting people through the immediate crisis and out of acute danger but felt their needed to be more to the conversation, that a crisis line had its limits. He, himself, had been in therapy for various situations that came up. But he felt the pull and draw to volunteer at the hotline after hearing about a friend who volunteered at a similar hotline. His relationship with mental health dated back to high school where many of his friends confided that they struggled with depression/suicidal thoughts. A year after high school, one friend killed himself.
After a year of volunteering at the hotline and working a job, he began to burnout so he left the hotline.
“This podcast is a good way to continue that kind of work without the same stressors,” he said.
The Greater Life Lesson He Learned
Conducting this podcast sensitized Kutz to humanity.
“I learned that people put on faces in public and not to make prejudgements,” he said. “Some people are dealing with intense chemical struggles inside their brains.”
How the movie Inside Out comes into play
We brought up the movie Inside Out and how the sadness character and the happiness character were a well-rounded part of everyone’s life.
“That’s what I do with the Dark Place. I look at sadness head on and embrace it.”
He’s learned every personal story is important. But some of his conversations stood out for him. Stories like Jennifer Marshall, who told her personal story with bipolar and the story of her advocacy with her non-profit This is My Brave or Miranda Yaver who talked about mental illness in academia and workplace issues. Then, there was Serina Brahney, who was Kutz’s supervisor who shard about being a care giver. Hannah Mansfield shard about medical leave.
We discussed how few resources ther are out there for people about mental health. The Dark Place currently has 5,000 listeners for each episode, showing how bad the need for this kind of support and information is needed.
Changing the Conversation One Story at a Time
“Listening to strangers talk about this is incredibly comforting. People listen to it and go out and have conversation in real life. Finding the comfort in yourself to instigate a conversation about mental health can be life changing for someone,” Kutz said. “It’s one power to share the conversation with a group of strangers [on a podcast], it’s a bigger power to share it with friends and family. Everyone can do their part by having a conversation in fighting stigma.”