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Spotlighting mental health

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Josiah Jones is creating original content around mental health awareness

Editors note: Research, community service, internships and study abroad typically make summers memorable for many University of Delaware students. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sidetracked some of these activities, UD students continued with hundreds of remarkable projects remotely. Check out our series of profiles and stories, which also are being highlighted on the Summer Spotlight website.

Josiah Jones is an English major from Bear, Delaware. He expects to graduate in May 2022.

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Josiah Jones is an English major from Bear, Delaware. He said he expects to graduate in May 2022. He is pictured in this collage of photos showing him writing and working.

Josiah Jones is an English major from Bear, Delaware. He said he expects to graduate in May 2022.

Q: What are you studying, where and with whom?

Jones: I am working with the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Delaware (NAMI Delaware) under the guidance of David Teague, professor of literature at the University of Delaware Associate in Arts Program in Wilmington. NAMI is the largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to creating better environments for every American affected by mental health issues. I am producing informative media surrounding the topics of mental health and the African American youth for NAMI Delaware.

So far, Ive created a blog post surrounding my individual thoughts about the climate of racial ambiguity in todays America and video essays reviewing movies and books that have important mental health takeaways. Im also working on a small one-to-two-episode web series about the average life of people my age and what goes on in our heads.

Q: What inspired this project?

Jones: African American mental health is a part of my life entirely. I can organically create projects and resources for people that are just like me because I am the demographic. Movies tell stories with plots and moments and emotional breakthroughs that occur that people may not even see. Through the content Im creating for NAMI Delaware, I want to teach without telling, to give people the ability to analyze situations on their own so they can form rational, logical thoughts. I think this is more important than telling people what to do. People know usually what the answers are, but that doesnt mean they know exactly what to do with them. Using movies, I am trying to create a long-lasting ability for people to detect the underlying messages and lessons in life, not just those on the surface. The hope is they will develop the ability to apply those lessons to their own lives.

Q: What is it about this topic that interests you?

Jones: My day and age is a time where everything is hitting you at once. A lot of young adults dont have time to take a break and think about their mental stability or whats happening in the world around them. If I can help people find peace in my writing, then I can feel that Im doing my part for the community. I want to write and create content for people who need help, to bring them emotional calm, momentary bliss especially today.

Q: How has COVID-19 shaped your plans for this project? Is flexibility something that comes easily for you?

Jones: I am not sure what my project would have looked like if COVID-19 wasnt present. In a way, something flourished from having fewer resources at my disposal because of the virus. I had to sit and think with my organization and professor about an idea that would work completely. Ive learned a lot, including how to produce cohesive and informative products on a time limit that I can be proud of. My ability to research and obtain knowledge from different forms of media to help increase the level of legitimacy for my projects has definitely gotten better. And Ive gained a newfound work ethic, learned to care about what Im doing and to have patience because Im not going to be able to create something that will change lives in one day.

Q: What are the possible real-world applications for your study?

Jones: African American people my age or younger can gain solace in my projects and be able to find something new in themselves that they did not know was there before by thinking about how my writing or videos relate to their lives. Im trying to give them the tools to connect the dots and to learn from things that they watch or read. Also, Im trying to help them be aware of the tools that they already have inside of them. Im bringing this insight to the youth in my community so we may thrive in our future endeavors.

Q: How would you explain your work to a fifth grader or someones grandparent? (Feel free to use an analogy if that helps)

Jones: If I was talking to a fifth grader, Id say that if they read my work or view what Im doing that they can gain a better understanding of themselves and get an early start on social awareness. If I was talking to a grandparent, Id say that Im trying to prevent their grandchildren from having to go through the same hardships as them, by helping these children understand where they are and how they fit into the world. This to me is the end all be all of parenting.

Q: What advice would you give younger kids (middle school or high school) with similar interests?

Jones: Id tell them the world is their oyster, and they have a plethora of ways to express themselves. My generation is just figuring this out. Younger kids need to learn to articulate themselves early. A baby knows how to express themselves they cry. A five-year old knows, maybe they draw on the wall. Its important that todays kids continue to learn to express themselves early, so when they face adversity in life later on, they know how to speak their minds people cant read it for you. Understanding yourself wont give you power against how other people treat you, but it can help you withhold the power someone else has over you.

Q: Have the changes required by the pandemic changed your perspective on anything?

Jones: I think about my parents more. I live with them so Im not going out all the time to see people because I know I have to go back home to them. The pandemic has taught me to be much more responsible for my actions. Ive learned to trust the thoughts and instructions of my elders less. I take what they say into account, but I dont just blindly listen to what people older than me have to sayI take their input and make my own decisions. Just because someone is older than me doesnt mean theyre completely smarter or wiser.

Article by Karen B. Roberts; photos and video courtesy of Josiah Jones; video by Jeffrey C. Chase

Published Oct. 14, 2020

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