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3 Min Read

Lived Experience Partner Spotlight: Marcus Alston

16 May 2024

For our latest Lived Experience Partner Spotlight interview, we spoke to Marcus Alston.

In 2018, Marcus was diagnosed with several mental health conditions, which he had been dealing with for a decade. This put Marcus in a dark phase, but it helped him find his purpose in life. A year later, Marcus founded Alston for Athletes, a fiscally sponsored project whose mission is to advocate for student-athlete mental health awareness through policy change and providing access to mental health services.

Marcus has worked with many US organisations to advocate for youth mental health. In 2020, he was nominated to join Mental Health America’s Young Mental Health Leaders Council, and in 2022 he was appointed to the Board of Directors for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maryland. He was also a member of MTV's Inaugural Mental Health Youth Action Forum. Marcus is currently working with Maryland's Senator Shelly Hettleman and Delegate Dayla Attar on a policy that would require public schools and public institutions that offer athletic programs to provide mental health training to coaches.

Marcus has recently joined ieso as one of our US Lived Experience Partners.

Hi Marcus. Could you tell us a bit about your background, and how you came to be a Lived Experience Advisor?

My name is Marcus Alston! I’m the Founder and Executive Director of Alston for Athletes, whose mission is to advocate for student-athlete mental health awareness through policy change and providing access to mental health services. As a former Division 1-AA student-athlete, I believe it is my purpose to use my experiences dealing with injuries and mental health challenges, to help the next generation of student-athletes through their challenges. I became a Lived Experience Advisor through some of the policy and advocacy work I’ve been doing with Mental Health America – the leading US nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of mental health, wellbeing and condition prevention.  

What initially attracted you to work with ieso?

Prior to starting Alston for Athletes, I worked as a Tier II IT Technician. I’ve always been passionate about technology but even more passionate about helping people like me. Over the past 5 years, part of me missed being in the technology field so working with ieso allows me to combine both of my passions: mental health and technology!  

Poor mental health has become a big concern amongst students, both in the UK and the US – how do you think digital mental health providers like ieso can help?

What’s exciting about digital health providers like ieso is the ease of access. This generation struggles with isolation so the digital solutions offered by companies like ieso can help reach more people who are in need of support. I’m a big believer in the value of working with people with lived experience of mental health conditions to help shape health care and technologies so that they better meet the needs of those they are intended to serve.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and this year’s theme is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’. How does this resonate with you and your work with Alston for Athletes?

This resonates with the work we’re doing at Alston for Athletes. As student-athletes, we’re constantly on the move - whether that be class, practice, or traveling. The more we move, the more positive effects we can have on our mental health! We’ve also been helping to create movements: we recently partnered with Athletes for Hopes to form a mental health alliance that coordinates student-athlete mental health legislative efforts across the US. Working together, we were able to pass HB204/SB165 in Maryland! This is a bill that will require the State Department of Education to develop guidelines for public schools, and the Maryland Higher Education Commission to develop guidelines for public institutions of higher education, to train coaches to recognize indicators of mental illness and behavioral distress in students who participate in athletic programs.

In collaboration with our Lived Experience Partners, ieso co-developed a set of Responsible Innovation principles that we use to inform the way we work – read more about them here.

For our latest Lived Experience Partner Spotlight piece, and in conjunction with UK Mental Health Week, we introduce Marcus Alston.