“Mental health is something that I had struggled with for a long time. As a coach, I tell people in some of the talks that I give, ‘I’ve got a whole career of coaching football and wrestling, and my mental health is something that I’d struggled with for as long as I can remember.’ Like a lot of people, I was very good at hiding it until I reached a breaking point.

When I first moved to Topeka, I took over a wrestling team. In 2021, we became the first team in United States history to win a boys’ and a girls’ state wrestling championship in the same season. Immediately afterward, I quit. I had reached a point where I wasn’t in a good place, burning the candle at both ends. I was not a very good husband or father and I definitely wasn’t taking care of myself. The mental health struggles that I had leading up to those few years reached a boiling point and I realized I needed to take a step back and take care of myself.

At the time I was resigning, [a man named] Josh Jones’ life ended by suicide. I went to his funeral, and afterward, I had a mental breakdown in the car. That was my wake-up call that if something didn’t change, it was only a matter of time until that was my family sitting in the front row. That was the catalyst for me to start seeking help through therapy.

Through these circumstances, I ended up as the executive director for The Jones Project, a charitable nonprofit focused on early intervention with teen mental health. We go into schools and give presentations where I tell my story about my own battles with mental health and what I did do to turn things around in my life. We emphasize what [resources] are already in place at that school and go into specific actionable steps for those teens.

We tell teens: if you’re struggling, you’re not alone in the way that you’re feeling. You’re not alone in the fight. There is hope, but you’ve got to put in the work.”

Damon, Executive Director of The Jones Project

To learn more about The Jones Project or book a presentation with Damon, visit thejonesproject.org