Affirming YOUth Foundation Tackles Social and Emotional Challenges Affecting Our Youth

Jonathan Spikes of Affirming YOUth Foundation speaks out on Social and Emotional Challenges with youths in Miami

SOUTH FLORIDA – According to the Office of Minority Health-Nearly two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment, and racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. are even less likely to get help.

Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.

South Florida Caribbean News caught up with Jonathan Spikes – Executive Director of the Affirming YOUth Foundation to find out about his new center that will address some of the social-emotional issues faced by today’s Miami youth.

Q: How do you define Mental Health?

A: Social and Emotional well-being is the management of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in ways the allows you to enjoy your life, maintain positive relationships and accomplish your goals.

Q: Do you believe stigma prevents people from seeking necessary treatment?

A: I believe our culture prevents people from seeking assistance when facing challenges. After all, we come from a culture that says, “As long as I got King Jesus I don’t need nobody else.” So, we have to understand the cultural dynamics and then tailor our approach to make the client feel comfortable with having Jesus, but also, having a friend on the couch.  

Q: What do you think is the most effective way to combat stigma? 

A: One of the most effective ways to combat stigma is to address the issues. Most of us who grew up in the inner-city have an acute understanding of what trauma is and what trauma does when left untreated. For example, when you hear a popping sound, you automatically fall to the ground trying to dodge bullets – this is clear of post-traumatic stress.

Or, when a family member or friend loses their life to gun violence but we don’t discuss it. Instead, we bury our pain on go on with our lives. Meanwhile, we become numb or desensitized to the death and trauma.

However, when the next traumatic death happens, we respond in inappropriate ways such as using drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, or experience moments of emotional flooding by having an emotional response of anger, fear, panic, and frustration.

Affirming YOUth Foundation Tackles Mental Health Issues Among Our Youth

Jonathan Spikes of Affirming YOUth Foundation speaking with youths in Miami.

Q: How will Affirming Youth help students with their mental wellness?

A: Affirming YOUth will help students with their social and emotional well-being by collaborating with students to develop strategies to deal with emotions in a healthy way; empowering them to identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder; and, assisting them to identify their strengths and build on them so they can feel better about him/herself and their life.

Affirming YOUth Foundation Mission

Affirming Youth Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization with the vision to curate safe spaces for youth to express their feelings and navigate life’s experiences. Affirming YOUth Foundation mission is to empower youth to transform their lives through psychological, emotional, academic and social practices.

Affirming YOUth Seeds(Social Emotional Enhance and Development for Success)“Cultivating the SEEDS of Change” Affirming Youth’s narrative helps to create mental health awareness in diverse communities.

Who is Jonathan Spikes?
Jonathan Spikes - Executive Director of the Affirming YOUth Foundation

Jonathan Spikes

South Florida native son, Jonathan Spikes is a published author, Cancer survivor and founder of the Affirming YOUth Foundation, Inc. Reared in Miami, Florida for most of his life, Jonathan has had the opportunity to experience many things both positive and challenging which have helped him to define his way and chart his course.

A graduate of Broward College and Nova Southeastern University, Jonathan’s experience and accomplishments speak volumes. Early in his professional career Jonathan mentored and counseled at-risk students at Horace Mann Middle School in Miami-Dade County as a way to give back to his community. This ignited his lifelong dream of helping youth realize that in spite of any situation, “You can do and be anything that you put your mind too.”

His high-strung energy and enthusiasm for working with students did not go unnoticed. He was later recruited to work with the Afro-centric Enhancement Self-esteem Opportunity Program (AESOP) which led to a more prominent position with the Miami-Dade Department of Juvenile Justice, Youth Investment Initiative Program. During this time Jonathan learned that a youths formative years would impact their adult years negatively or positively depending on their exposure and mental outlets.

In 2011, his passion for youth led to the creation of the Affirming YOUth Foundation, Inc., to celebrate the intrinsic value of all youth. And, the creation of its award-winning Let’s Talk It Out Anti-bully/Conflict Resolution Program; taught in Miami Dade County Public Schools in 2012 through the Educational Transformation Office. In October 2014, the program was promoted by the Florida Department of Education.

In 2018, the foundation expanded its services to include the Affirming Youth Center, a community center for youth to grow and learn.

He is the father of two teenagers, Jamari and Jayna, that continually enriches his life with unbelievable joys and stress. But, he wouldn’t change anything on this incredible life’s journey.

Affirming YOUth Foundation Tackles Mental Health Issues Among Our Youth

Affirming Youth Foundation, Inc. in action with Youths in Miami.

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