Podstellar Talks: Dr. Tracey Marks on Mental Health
Q: Hi Tracey, thank you again for being with Podstellar from the early days. We have seen your Youtube channel grow over 50% over the last 6 months to more than 240K subscribers. Congratulations! For all the readers out there can you explain in a nutshell what your Youtube channel is about?
I am a psychiatrist and I make mental health education videos. This includes information on psychiatric disorders, personality and relationship issues and personal development/self-improvement.
Q: Before we talk more about your channel we would like to get to know who you are. Can you tell us a bit about your background and profession?
I went to Duke University where I got a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. After working for a year, I decided I wanted to be a doctor so I went to medical school at the University of Florida. While I was still in medical school, I thought I wanted to do Internal Medicine, but I changed my mind and chose psychiatry because I realized I wanted to help people with their mental pain more than their physical problems.
Also while in medical school, I had a “secret” desire to want to be a medical correspondent for the Today Show. So I did my residency training in New York City hoping to be “discovered.” It didn’t happen so I moved to Atlanta after I finished my training and started in private practice.
In Atlanta, I worked on a few high-profile legal cases and started getting asked to appear on CNN and HLN to give commentary. I had a lot of fun teaching people about mental health issues and this sparked my desire to start my Youtube Channel.
Q: Awesome. Let’s talk a bit more about your channel. How did it go in the beginning? How did you grow your channel?
I had a few false starts with my channel. I posted a few videos in 2008, but this was when there was no filtering with the comments. So the mean comments from the anonymous trolls scared me away. I even took down those videos. Then I tried again in 2010, but I kept it light and talked about things like sleep and lifestyle. I didn’t think anyone really wanted to hear about “hard core” psychiatric issues like bipolar disorder.
I wasn’t consistent with my uploads back then. I had a makeshift studio set up in my dining room and it made my house too cluttered, so I took it down. I didn’t get that much traction with my videos, so I lost interest.
I put forth the same lame effort in 2012, posting a few videos then losing interest. In retrospect, I think I lost interest because I wasn’t really focused on my “why.” I didn’t have a clear picture of who I was speaking to or why I was creating content. But at the time, I used the excuse that I was tired of parking my car in the driveway and stumbling over equipment every time I walked into the house.
I eventually moved into a larger home that allowed me to create a dedicated space for a studio. So, in 2018, I put on my big girl panties and decided to re-launch my channel with weekly content on mental health. I was ready for trolls and very little views. My purpose was to create an evergreen library of content and have creative outlet. If no one watched, so be it.
Q: As mentioned your Youtube channel is growing heavily. What do you think are the main drivers? Are people in today’s world always under pressure and your channel seems to provide the right treatment?
I started out experimenting with different kinds of videos on self-improvement and psychiatric disorders. I noticed a surge in growth around 8 months in. The videos that were driving the views and discovery were a couple of videos I did on bipolar disorder. I think the mental health videos have resonated with people because I answer questions people have that no one was answering for them.
Q: Let’s talk a bit about content creation. The topics you are covering are very diverse. How do you come up with the topic of the next video? Do you engage heavily with your followers and understand what they want to see? And how much time does it take for you to create a video?
I’ve spent a lot of time answering questions in the comments section. Through the comments, I get requests for video topics and make those videos. So I would say 60% of my content is user-generated. The rest are topics that I think people should hear about based on psychiatric news topics or things I see in my professional journals that I think people should know. I also get some ideas from discussions with patients. I don’t mention patient information in my videos, but I may discuss a topic I covered in a session.
If I had to guess, I would say it takes about 4-6 hours per video depending on the topic. Some topics require more research and fact checking. I’ve gotten faster with my editing. I used to do more cartoon animation – which was like painting for me; I enjoyed the creative process. But animation is very time-consuming, and I got feedback from viewers that they were more interested in what I was saying than how the graphics looked.
Q: What is your next goal with your brand “Dr. Tracey Marks”. What are the next goals you want to achieve and how do you want to achieve them?
I have so many ideas in my head of how I would like what I am saying conveyed on screen. But I am limited in my production skills. I would love to be approached by a production company that wanted to create a mental health show or documentary and let me script the content while they produce the visuals. That’s my pie in the sky.
I’ve been approached in the past about being a part of a show, but it was more entertainment-focused. Given the difficulties we’re facing globally, I think we’re getting to the place where we see the value of understanding mental health and talking about it in a real way. I want to make real talk interesting, without the need to be sensational for entertainment’s sake.
In the meantime, to increase my reach to people who prefer to listen over watch, I’ve started my Mental Health Moment podcast on Podstellar. This will include the audio version of my videos and some audio-only content that will only appear in the podcast.
Q: Your content is very informational and educational and that’s why we also approached you. You have seen from the comments of your followers that your content can often also just be listened without video and add the same amount of value. What made you decide to start a collaboration with Podstellar? What do you like about Podstellar?
I loved the idea of Podstellar adding the social component to podcasting. I had a short-lived podcast on Itunes, and it was hard to stay motivated because I had no idea who my listeners were and what they wanted to hear. So Podstellar allows me to get feedback from my listening audience similar to Youtube and Facebook.
Q: Let’s wrap up this interview. What is your advice to people who are feeling lonely at the moment because of the current lockdown situation in many countries?
Keep reminding yourself that this WILL pass. But in the meantime, focus on the things you can control. These would be things like connecting with people virtually and spending more time doing the thing that gives you pleasure. If you lost your job, explore your strengths to see how you can use your skills in a different career path. This will help you stay forward-thinking. And most of all, keep your distance and wash your hands so you can stay well.
Thank you for your time Tracey. We are looking forward to more amazing content.
This was the interview with Dr. Tracey Marks. If you are ever again anxious or stressed download Podstellar now from the app store and follow Dr. Tracey Marks.