Monday Profile: SHS sophomore part of national mental health campaign

When Starkville High School sophomore Alex Jones took a trip to New York City over the summer, it wasn’t just to tour the Big Apple.

Jones, 15, is one of the faces of a national fundraising campaign for mental health efforts by Macy’s, The Jed Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The campaign will allow Macy’s customers to round up their purchase at checkout in order to help provide resources, support mental health change and create programs in schools in underserved communities all over the country.

While in school, Jones is on the volleyball and softball teams, and she enjoys hanging out with friends. However, when COVID-19 hit, Jones felt the effects of isolation all too well.

While being shuttered away from friends and family in 2020, Jones and her mother joined JED, “a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults,” JED’s website says.

Alex Jones

“I initially joined JED around the pandemic, and I got in close relation with JED this time last year,” Jones said. “I’m a very social person, so once the pandemic came around there was not a lot of interaction with people. I love being around people, so that was really stressful for me, not being able to see or talk to my friends.”

In her advocacy work with JED, Jones is turning her focus on mental health and racial injustice. Eventually Jones would like to have a way to communicate to all of the students at SHS to discuss mental health to destigmatize the conversation and ask for help.

“I’ve always been the type of person to speak up when I see something wrong or when there is something that should be talked about,” Jones said. “If I was somebody that was struggling, I would want somebody that I know can be vulnerable that’s my age and knows what I’ve gone through to talk to me about it or to stand up for me. … I’m hoping to start putting up little posters at my school or having a conversation about mental health at school, hopefully.”

JED’s Chief Clinical Officer Nance Roy has worked for more than 20 years as a psychologist working in teen and young adult mental health. Roy said that when other teens see their peers talking about mental health, it can increase the likelihood others will begin to seek help.

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Roy said the importance of keeping up with one’s mental health at a young age can help prevent challenges one may face later in their lives.

“Approximately 33 percent of individuals experience the onset of their first mental disorder before the age of 14, approximately 50 percent by the age 18 and 62 percent before age 25,” Roy said. “The median age of onset for all mental health disorders is ages 14-18 and yet, treatment often does not occur until quite a number of years later. Early intervention can help reduce severity and prevent additional mental health challenges so paying attention to mental health at a young age is essential.”

While Jones gets to help others through her own advocacy in her teens, she also enjoyed meeting the new people through the Macy’s and JED campaign when she traveled to New York.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Jones said. “Getting to visit New York and meeting all of these beautiful people, these beautiful girls I get to work with — it was just so amazing.”

For those not knowing where to start when it comes to finding a mental healthcare provider, Roy advises looking through insurance providers first.

“If using insurance, your insurance carrier will have a list of participating providers,” Roy said. “It is important to note if your plan has both in and out of network providers and when choosing, be aware that cost to you is usually higher if you choose an out of network provider. Other referral sources may be your pediatrician, a school counselor, friends or family who have seen or are seeing a therapist. It is also important to check on the credentials of the therapist and ensure that they are licensed providers.”

If there is one thing Jones could impart on all people, regardless of age, is that taking care of mental health is important for everybody.

“I’d like to eventually start something in the community and not just my school,” Jones said. “I want to hold meetings and just get the (mental health) conversation started.”

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Source: https://cdispatch.com/news/2022-08-29/monday-profile-shs-sophomore-part-of-national-mental-health-campaign/

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