I first saw the movie years ago — and this past spring, I met the man. And meeting and spending time with Patch Adams — with that dazzling blue stripe in his hair and dressed in clown clothing — was indeed a memorable experience.
Many will remember the 1998 movie Patch Adams, in which now deceased actor, Robin Williams, brought Dr. Hunter (Patch) Adams to life on the big screen. The movie focuses on the time in Patch’s life that led him into medical school and his pursuant efforts to change America’s healthcare system. He decided to be a free doctor and never charge anyone, so he founded the Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia, where he and his colleagues have practiced medicine for the past 43 years. His two sons have also joined the team.
On Tuesday May 8, Patch spent time in Regina with school children and teachers at a Youth Empowerment Breakfast and then keynoted the Mayor’s Luncheon in Support of Mental Health Week — a significant fundraiser for The Caring Place in Regina. He encouraged and answered numerous questions, including those about Robin Williams and the movie. In both venues, the seats were full of intent listeners.
Whether you agreed with him or not, one thing was crystal clear — Patch’s undying passion and concern for the health and wellbeing of every person, especially in the area of mental health. He stressed concern that public schools don’t teach children about loving, and added: “No medical school in the world teaches compassion.”
To see and hear Patch today, you would never suspect that he was admitted to mental hospitals in his late teens. After attending Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech in Washington, D.C., he realized the answer was not to kill himself but to create a revolution instead, and that meant never again having another bad day. Instead, he decided every second to be loving, happy, funny, co-operative, creative and thoughtful. “I blame all my niceness on my mother,” he says. “I never saw her angry, unkind or unloving.”
Keeping his revolution alive has been Patch’s life work. Now 73, he has visited 83 countries and spends 275 days a year on the road, including leading clown trips, which anyone is welcome to join: “Clowning stops suffering. It gives people a chance to see their best self. We use clowning (humour) as a trick to get love close. You would be amazed at the power of love and laughter.” Patch has clowned at 10,000 deathbeds (many for children), for prisoners on death row, in war zones — and any chance he gets in everyday life to stop a fight.
Patch encouraged everyone to put down their smartphones and become observers: “What I think we have is an extreme case of boredom, loneliness and fear. I think loneliness is the worst human experience and how fascinating is it that one can be lonely in a world of 7.4 billion people. How is it that we don’t have thousands of friends? How do you know when you have a friend? You cannot be depressed.”
At the luncheon, Patch advised one woman to “focus on being one lucky lady and forget the survivor and victimhood thing. Scare people with your radiance – and say a doctor prescribed it.” And what message does he recommend taping to your mirror at home? I love me. “Almost nobody loves themselves in this time. I’ve seen people change themselves. I did and it’s really given me a great life.”
A month after meeting Patch Adams, I watched the movie again and remembered Patch leaving with as much energy as he had upon arriving. Perhaps it’s the weightlifting, aerobics and yoga he has been doing for 45 years. Or maybe it’s summed up by his one simple statement: “If you have food and a friend, what are you complaining about?”
For more information about Patch Adams, his life work and clown trips, visit his website and sign up for his e-newsletter. Write him a letter with a return address and he promises to respond.
“I dove into the ocean of gratitude and never found the shore.” —Patch Adams
“Take hope and never give it up for one second.” —Patch Adams
The Caring Place
There is always a way to find purpose, passion and joy — and The Caring Place is here so that you never need to walk that journey alone. They can help with:
· Depression & Anxiety/Self Harm
· Addictions Recovery & Abuse/Eating Disorders
· Solution Focused Brief Therapy
· Marriage & Family Counselling
· Fostering & Adoption
· Trauma/Anger Management
· Caregiver Support & more
By Sherry Lee Photos Essence Photography