Damon Parker advocates for mental health awareness amongst teens

Published: Aug. 28, 2022 at 11:32 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Washburn Rural wrestling coach Damon Parker is no stranger to struggles with one’s mental health. So now, he’s using his life experiences to help kids who may be in similar situations.

”I’ve seen just through my own personal experience, how important having your mental health in a good place is, cause for a long time I wasn’t in a good place,” said Parker.

As Executive Director of The Jones Project, named after the late Josh Jones, Parker is dedicated to promoting hope, help and healing to middle and high schoolers.

“The sooner that we can get kids to realize this, the better off that they’re gonna be,” added Parker.

He’s spent a lot of time fighting his own battles, but he’s now taken the fight to the road, speaking to thousands of students across Kansas. He started at Council Grove on Friday afternoon.

“One of my skillsets is working with high school kids and being on stage, so this is kind of a perfect storm,” Parker said. “We’re very happy to be doing this work. It’s hard to be around kids every day and not want to help them in any way that you can.”

A week before his first visit, he embarked on the journey of a lifetime, conquering the climb in Utah. Over 36 hours, he climbed over 30 miles with 29,029 feet of elevation gain. That’s the equivalent of Mount Everest.

“Man, the hiking trip was one of the more challenging and terrible and rewarding and incredible experiences of my life,” he said.

The trip helped raise $100,000 for The Jones Project, a nonprofit.

“Right now our job is to spread this message, and get kids to a place where if they’re already in a position where they’re getting help from somebody, to realize that is not abnormal.”

He wants kids to know that it’s ok to not be ok, but also to know they can and should reach out for help. He’s more than happy to be the one who provides that help.

“Everybody has their own story, and everybody’s story is unique, and mine is no different,” he said. “You learn from adversity, right and you grow from adversity, and I’ve been through a good bit. And some of that was self-inflicted adversity and some of it was external. But we fought through it, and we’re trying to teach kids how to do the same.”