NFL Hall of Famer providing mental health support for young people

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The program is a project of the Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation.

The need for the youth mental health and wellness resources has never been more urgent. According to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America Report, throughout the pandemic, youth aged 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to show symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety and depression. Of those, over half reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm. This is especially troubling as 60% of youth with depression do not receive any mental health treatment.

And data has highlighted the need for increased mental wellbeing support in both cities. A children’s hospital in Jacksonville has seen a 300% increase in the amount of behavioral health emergency admissions, with a 20% increase in new outpatients amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In Philadelphia, mental health challenges have risen over the past couple of years with students responding more negatively to questions about mental health and suicide. Philadelphia’s findings also highlight that multi-racial, Hispanic/Latino, and Black/African American students responded more negatively to questions about mental health and suicide than White and Asian students.

The interactive no-cost digital resource, launched in collaboration with leading social impact education innovator, EVERFI, Inc. in May 2020, was the Foundation’s first project under its BDVP, which uses Dawkins’ values as a framework for practical, inspirational and motivational learning modules designed to encourage youth to make smart choices and remain on a positive path.

 “I dealt with depression after my mother died. Luckily, my family recognized it and got me the help I needed. Other people might not have a support system like I did. I feel like the Brian Dawkins lessons are a great opportunity to inform people about their emotions and make them comfortable about dealing with them,” said Philadelphia high school Senior Machi.

The module draws on Dawkins’ personal experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts early in his career and reflects a drive to provide historically marginalized young people and communities with the tools and critical skills necessary to help them take control of their well-being and futures.

“Change begins with belief. In order for someone to do what they’ve never done, they must think like they’ve never thought and act and behave like they never have before,” stated Dawkins, Founder & President of the Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation.

“I believe that when you surround yourself with quality friends, associates and resources, they will help you and challenge you to greatness. That is why we created the Brian Dawkins Values Program and that is why we’re on a mission to expand it – to be there to help guide and assist in sparking young people’s beliefs. Beliefs that will change the trajectory of those willing and able to go full out and Never Quit!”

Initial delivery of BDVP has seen extremely positive results with 71% of the program’s students now believing their own mental health and wellness is within their control. Pre- and post-surveys indicate that students experienced positive changes in their knowledge, attitudes and preparedness to take action after course completion:

  • 76% of students said they would feel compassion for someone with a mental health disorder after taking the course
  • 74% of students believe when faced with challenges, they have the power to change their situation for the better
  • More than three-quarters of students said they better understand how to support a friend who may be experiencing mental health challenges

 Following the program’s 2020 achievements, in addition to the seven schools where the program has already been delivered, there has been further roll-out to the following schools:

Jacksonville, Florida

  • Jean Ribault High School
  • Kirby-Smith Middle School
  • Lake Shore Middle School
  • Lavilla School Of The Arts
  • Mandarin High School
  • Matthew W. Gilbert Middle School
  • William M. Raines High School (Dawkins’ alma mater)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Amy At James Martin School
  • Furness Horace High School
  • Meehan Austin Middle School
  • Parkway-Northwest High School
  • Samuel Fels High School

Lisa Markey of social impact agency thinkBeyond – advisors to the foundation – added: This is just the start of the foundation’s work. With Brian’s dedication to the mission, we’re looking forward to extending more opportunities to young people, providing them with the hope, inspiration and resources to succeed.”

 On April 29, Dawkins hosted four virtual classroom conversations with participating students and teachers in Jacksonville and Philadelphia, moderated by NFL Reporter, TV Anchor and Impact Foundation Board Member, Derrick Gunn. He spoke directly with them to get their thoughts on the program and to provide further motivation by sharing his life experiences and the importance of maintaining cerebral wellness. View the highlights here:



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