Written by Tanya Terry, with photos provided by Dr. Shan Jackson,
As a child, Shan Jackson told the Courier she would eat lunch by herself in the library. Her body had been physically violated at a young age. Even while taking medication, her world was one of loneliness and despair.
“I was so many steps away from not being here,” Jackson said.
But even a school librarian, Cora Blakely, saw there was something special about Jackson. In her smile, she saw a “ray of sunshine” and gave her the nickname Sunshine.
Eventually, Jackson looked at how deep-fried foods and candy made her feel, and exchanged these foods for food that made her feel better and smile more.
Now known as Dr. Shan Jackson, mental health and wellness educator, Jackson is often praised for her work teaching inmates about nutrition.
In January, the Courier introduced our readers to her children’s book “Rainbow Power” which focuses on eating fruit and vegetables of various colors of the rainbow.
In February, Jackson released her latest book “Superfoods for Mental Disorders” to help people in the Flint area she loves and calls her home. She is also helping people of all ages abroad to obtain good physical health, as well as mental wellbeing.
According to Jackson, “Superfoods for Mental Disorders” was written for people who are curious about enhancing their brain performance and combating mental health disorders.
“It breaks down everything as far as certain herbs you can use, foods you can use, whole grains, healthy fats and protein that has been scientifically proven to actually nourish your brain,” said Jackson.
Jackson pointed out many people eat a lot of processed foods when they could instead eat foods to create a healthier brain, especially as they start to age.
From 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., on March 9, Jackson will speak at the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library about the correlation between mental health and nutrition. There, both her books will be available.
Jackson focuses on common disorders, such as ADHD, depression, stress and addiction to help alleviate symptoms associated with these disorders.
Jackson previously pointed out Flint is a very sensitive population because its residents have endured GM drastically reducing its Flint footprint, The Flint Water Crisis and COVID-19 – and it also has a food disparity.
Additionally, Jackson has been traveling to Kingston, Jamaica and will talk about how she has been living a successful life after becoming pregnant as a teen. She will speak at a girls’ school for girls ages 11-18 who have endured traumatic experiences that range from being raped and as a result being pregnant, to being exploited in human trafficking.
Although Jackson said there may be no direct connection between Flint and Kingston, she stated human trafficking is real in Flint, as it also is in Kingston.
Jackson explained besides being able to eat and get schooling at the school, the girls get information on how to take care of their babies.
She also pointed out Genesee County Sheriff has helped ensure human trafficking awareness billboards with the signs to look for when someone is being trafficked have been placed in places they will be seen throughout the state since December 2023. She stated human trafficking is an example of one of many forms of trauma that affect people mentally.
“I look at mental health as like a hamburger. It has different layers…You may have to get the therapy, but you’ve got to be able to get the nutrition. You’ve got to change some of the things that you are putting inside of your body, even though you may be prescribed things from a doctor.”
Jackson heavily researched the Mediterranean Diet before writing her new book, which she largely bases her own diet off. She was also mindful of how she fed her own children.
Jackson told the Courier that it was believed her own son had autism due to how he was eating at his dad’s house, and a student at Grand Blanc Schools was wrongly diagnosed with ADHD because of his high sugar diet.
When the mother of the student in Grand Blanc started a meal plan for her family, things changed for everyone. The child’s mother no longer has cholesterol issues. His dad lost weight is no longer borderline diabetic. It was discovered the child did not have ADHD, but NDD: “nutrition deficiency disorder,” and his medication was reduced.
“Everything comes back to mindfulness,” stated Jackson.