PostSecret presentation promotes mental health and addiction services in North Bay
SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Secrets arrive daily at the home of Frank Warren- written on coffee cups, flip-flops, death certificates, even a potato skin.
Part social worker, part motivational speaker, Warren has been collecting secrets for fifteen years.
"I've been called the most trusted stranger in America," he told a Santa Rosa audience Thursday night.
Warren's PostSecret presentation was brought to Sonoma County by Buckelew Programs, which provides mental health and addiction services in the North Bay.
"When you share stories and don't bottle them up, communities come together for support and healing, rather than build walls and separate," Warren told KTVU.
"What I've learned about secrets is they're the currency of intimacy."
In 2004, Warren was volunteering as an counselor on a suicide prevention hotline when the idea came to him.
He began asking people to anonymously mail him messages on homemade postcards, and more than one million secrets later, they are collected and shared in six books, museum exhibits, and the web.
"We all have a secret that could break your heart, and if we could just remember that about other people, I think we could have more compassion and empathy," said Warren.
His appearance in Santa Rosa was especially timely, on the heels of yet another damaging wildfire, the second in two years.
Fire survivors and first responders were especially encouraged to attend.
"There was the anticipatory trauma, the anxiety of what's going to happen, what's going to happen?" said Chris Kughn, CEO of Buckelew Programs
"You have people holding what happened two years ago in their consciousness, combined with what might happen again."
The venue, Sonoma Country Day School, was in the middle of the recent emergency, with its campus evacuated for the Kincade Fire.
"There's a bit of PTSD for families around here, and I think having this event is very timely to help us all reflect on how we're doing," said Dr. Kevin Hamann, who helped organize the PostSecret presentation.
In the auditorium lobby, a rack held examples of dozens of postcards received over the years.
Some are painful.
"I hide because I want to be found," reads one.
"I worked so hard to get into Harvard and I'm so miserable I wish I'd never come," states another.
And some secrets are humorous.
"I feel guilty when I take elevators for one floor so I limp when I get out," read Warren, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
"Intimacy, that's what it's about, being close with strangers," said PostSecret fan Macey Sockolov, who drove from Sacramento to hear Warren, and checks his ad-free website every Sunday for new secrets.
"My husband and I read them together, and point out the ones that are meaningful to us and share our own," said Sockolov.
Mental health providers in the lobby drove home the message: there is no shame in releasing emotions or seeking help.
"Certain people think they have to be strong and tuck aside what they're feeling, and others are more vocal about it, but there is a lot of shared trauma in this county," said therapist Britni Pimental, a PostSecret follower.
Frank Warren receives a few dozen secrets daily.
"I keep every secret, I read every postcard, I think it's a precious archive," he said.
He advised the audience, when people think they're keeping a secret, it's the secret that's "keeping" them.
"My policy is always free your secrets and become who you are."