At around 13 years old, a Riverview resident began experiencing feelings she could hardly describe and found hard to deal with but barely got any help from adults in the Hillsborough County school system. After realizing the need for mental health support for students, Idania Rodriguez — now a 16-year-old Jule F. Sumner High School student — established the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Mental H2O Inc.
“Later on, I just realized that this issue was becoming more prevalent in our schools, specifically Hillsborough County, and I was just like, ‘Well, I guess someone needs to take a stand, and if no other adult figure wants to take a stand, I guess I will,’” said Rodriguez.
Mental H2O’s mission is: “To educate and inform our local youth community of healthy ways to cope with mental distress. We allow for one another to feel safe and connected by providing an outlet for those suffering in silence.”
Started in November 2021 with her friend, Barrett Livingston, Mental H2O mainly helps through posters made by Rodriguez and interns that offer helpful messages and advice, many being mental health infographics. Its website, https://mentalh2o.org/, provides plenty of resources, like advice for stress, depression and anxiety; several helplines, including Suicide Prevention, Tampa Bay Crisis Center, the YouthLine and National Teen Dating Abuse; and pages about important issues not often talked about. Through it, Mental H2O assists students and gets help from interns nationwide.
“One hundred percent of it is researched,” Rodriguez said. “We never put anything out there without confirmation that it works.”
Also, Mental H2O is offering remote internships to Hillsborough students where they can grow skills in graphic design, be creative, give back to the community and earn community service hours. Rodriguez said she’s approved over 200 hours for students. If you’re interested, visit its website or email email@example.com.
To top it all off, Rodriguez and Livingston wrote, designed and published a book, Beginner Guide: Pursuing Entrepreneurship, for sixth through 12th graders, but it’s useful for anybody. Created using her research and experiences, it simplifies and touches on everything needed to start entrepreneuring and is a resource Rodriguez wishes she had when forming Mental H2O.
To purchase Beginner Guide: Pursuing Entrepreneurship, visit www.amazon.com.
Rodriguez thanks Livingston, her parents and her sister, Daniela, for all their help and support on her journey to making Mental H2O what it is today.