A Passion for Adolescent Mental Health
Jamison Monroe Jr., the founder and CEO of Newport Academy, shares the life experiences that drove him to make a difference in the community. [Sponsored]
Newport Academy is made up of a series of evidence-based healing centers for adolescents and families struggling with mental health issues, eating disorders and substance abuse. Jamison Monroe Jr. co-founded Newport Academy with his father as part of a personal mission to help families cope with the difficulties faced by adolescents.
How did you become interested in this kind of work and how long have you been doing it for?
As a teenager, I struggled with mental health and substance use issues, as did two of my siblings. My brother, sister and I attended as many as a dozen of the country’s premier treatment centers. Eventually, I began to see that I wasn’t getting better because the treatment was addressing the symptoms, not the underlying issues. The program that finally set me on the path to healing was one that addressed all aspects of who I was — mind, body and spirit — rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach.
My father and I co-founded Newport Academy in order to provide the kind of individualized, integrated care that helped me heal, and to help families navigate this extremely difficult journey.
How long you have been using your work as a way to create positive social impact?
I founded Newport Academy in 2008, and the program has grown from one location to multiple ones across the country, offering residential and outpatient treatment as well as therapeutic day school options. In addition, I am an active participant in the national movement to reduce stigma around mental health and substance abuse challenges.
I have been involved with numerous projects and initiatives, including the Inspiration Foundation, the Global Adolescent Project, and Drugs Over Dinner, and also produced the critically-acclaimed documentary film Behind the Orange Curtain, about the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the U.S. I was invited to testify before England’s Parliament on the subject of teen prescription drug abuse, gave the keynote address at the United Kingdom and European Symposium on Addictive Disorders, and was awarded the Freedom Institute’s 2014 Mona Mansell Award, which honors individuals who make a significant impact on the recovery field and community.
How did you become interested in social impact causes?
While my personal experience catalyzed my involvement in the treatment field, my passion for this work has only grown stronger in the years since, as it has become increasingly clear that we are in the midst of a teen mental health crisis. One out of every five American teenagers suffers from anxiety and/or depression. In addition, more teens in the U.S. are overdosing than ever before as a result of heroin use and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Teenagers and their families desperately need new, more effective approaches to mental health and substance abuse treatment.
What causes are you most passionate about supporting, and what issues do they tackle?
I am passionate about advancing the adolescent mental health care field, because our future in many ways depends upon it. Effective, holistic teen treatment not only makes individuals’ and families’ lives better, it also addresses larger societal issues, such as overuse of technology, over-medication of kids, and a culture that values achievement over authentic connection. With the right treatment, teens who are struggling today have the potential to become the compassionate, empowered leaders of their generation.
Do you have any stories about the Newport Academy’s positive impact?
There are so many stories — one for every teenager and family who come to Newport Academy and find their way from darkness back to light, from pain and helplessness to a sense of being in control of their own life and their own choices. I love the way one of our alumni expressed it recently: “I am no longer a product of my circumstances, but a product of my decisions to overcome those circumstances.” Every day, I hear from clients, alumni and parents how they are making powerful positive changes in their lives, their relationships and their communities.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Stigmas around mental health and substance abuse continues to be an obstacle that keeps people from getting the help they need, and often results in less public funds being put toward mental health services. We all need to look closely at our biases regarding behavioral and psychological disorders. It’s important to understand that adolescents who end up in mental health or substance abuse treatment aren’t bad, or wrong or broken. They are beautiful, powerful, sensitive young adults — and, with compassionate, comprehensive treatment, they will go on to live happy, fulfilling lives.
To learn more about the teen mental health services offered by Newport Academy, click here.