Mental Health Advocacy with Trenton Alenik of Inspiring Children Foundation
Mental health is often viewed as a taboo topic, but it’s something that needs to be talked about more openly.
And since here at Mondo we choose our philanthropic partnerships based on value alignment, teaming up with Inspiring Children Foundation (ICF) — an organization that focuses on mental health advocacy and offers innovative programs for at-risk youth — was a no-brainer.
In honor of Burnout Awareness Month here at Mondo, social media manager and Mondo Minute podcast host, Melissa Newman seized the opportunity to speak with ICF’s executive director, Trenton Alenik, about his burnout story and how mental health awareness is at the core of their mission.
Philanthropic value alignment
Melissa Newman: How did Inspiring Children Foundation begin working with Mondo?
Trenton Alenik: We began working together several years ago. Jewel is one of our big advocates and a co-founder of the organization. She’s opened up so many incredible doors for us over the years and she was recently on a Joe Rogan podcast.
One of the executives at Mondo heard the podcast and reached out to us through our website and said, “Hey, I think our values and our cultures align so well. We should get on the phone and see if we can do anything together.” So that’s turned into several conversations and a lot of great collaboration among our organizations and a lot more to come.
Mental health advocacy and burnout awareness
Melissa: The Inspiring Children Foundation program has a really strong emphasis on mental health awareness and advocacy. Why is that critical to your mission?
Trenton: We’ve come a long way as a society in breaking the stigma, and we have a lot of celebrities and athletes and people of influence and leaders that are sharing their own stories and leading with that vulnerability saying, “Hey, I’m a human.”
We all have our own struggles…the human condition is something that we all have to face and we all have a little voice in our head that likes to beat us up and likes to tear us down. Likes to keep us back. So by helping create awareness around that, that you’re not alone and we’re all in this human fight together is step one.
Inspiring Children services and resources
Melissa: So for 2022, how many participants has your organization supported and what do you think the number will be for next year?
Trenton: We have a lot of different programming. In Vegas, we have about 2,500 students that we impact through different physical, mental, and emotional health programs.
We have a leadership program that has about a hundred students that are with us, typically from eight in the morning until five at night, six days a week. We have a transitional house program where we’ll have about 45 people come through our homes in a given year. And then the cool thing that we’ve done in the last couple of years is we brought our program online to the Twitch community and created a channel called Inspire House.
Trenton’s personal burnout story and insights
The “whole human” approach to improving health, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental for at-risk youth is at the core of the Inspiring Children Foundation’s mission so it should come as no surprise that much of their success has come as a result of Trenton’s own challenges with burnout and mental health.
For the first 7 years of his 11+ years with ICF, Trenton was the only staff member of this grassroots organization. This meant working from eight in the morning until 11 at night, six days a week, and playing every single role to keep the organization running.
After pushing himself to the brink, Trenton has found tools and resources that have helped him avoid burnout.
Trenton: Every morning I start my day with meditation. There are a lot of different types of meditation, but mindfulness and being aware of your breath is really powerful.
So I’ll do 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and then we’ll do brain breaks in the office with our students and our staff where we’ll do 10 breaths before a meeting.
Then, a couple of times in the afternoon we’ll do a walking meditation where we’ll just walk around the pond and, and catch up.
Trenton also noted the many studies that have been done regarding sleep and the role it plays in mental health and burnout reduction including ways he personally incorporates healthy sleep habits into his daily life to promote mental resiliency.
Trenton: If I’m really tired, a 15-minute nap in the afternoon is a lot better I find than just dosing up on caffeine and trying to get through that tired wave.
Having a night routine and a morning routine is crucial. So at night, set a time when you turn your phone off or put it away.
Finally, Melissa asked him to share some final insights…
Melissa: What advice would you give someone who’s struggling with their mental health?
Trenton: One thing I’ve struggled with a lot that I think is so paramount is just talking about the struggle, especially men. We have this thing that it’s, it’s “weak” if you’re emotional or if you talk about a struggle.
And for me, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of leadership speakers come and, and share their stories with our group over the years…so to be able to validate [our struggles] is really important, and then being able to talk about it and share it with people that have your back.
A lot of times people don’t always need an answer. They just need someone who can listen and hold space. So I would definitely suggest that everyone find one person that can do that for them.
And if they can’t, there’s a lot of hotlines and I know therapy has been really helpful for a lot of people…for all of the work that we do with our students, mindfulness is really at the core of it.
To get the full interview with more tools and helpful insights, listen below.