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Jessica Trudeau: Here are 6 strategies to help you optimize mental wellness

When you feel weak — do the things that make you strong. A friend of mine shared this sentiment during a particularly difficult period of my life. I made a list of the things that I could do to strengthen my spirit, which included yoga, meditation, listening to music, journaling and connection to others. I developed […]

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When you feel weak — do the things that make you strong. A friend of mine shared this sentiment during a particularly difficult period of my life. I made a list of the things that I could do to strengthen my spirit, which included yoga, meditation, listening to music, journaling and connection to others. I developed a daily practice and decided that I would not abandon myself. One day, I realized that I felt strong again. I look back at this period and note that I grew tremendously during this time.


Jessica Trudeau is the Executive Director of Momentous Institute in Dallas, Texas. Joining the organization in 2015 as the Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships, she moved into the Executive Director role in 2019. She has worked in the field of public health including unintentional injury, HIV/AIDS and child abuse prevention for the previous 18 years including service as the Executive Director of Family Compass. She graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology and Tulane University with a Master’s in Public Health. Momentous Institute, owned and operated by Salesmanship Club of Dallas, has been building and repairing social-emotional health in kids since 1920. Each year, the organization serves over 5,500 children and family members through innovative education and therapeutic services. The organization also invests in research and training, including the annual Changing the Odds conference, to reach far more children than could ever be served directly. The combined support of Salesmanship Club of Dallas, the AT&T Byron Nelson (primary fundraising event), corporations, individuals and foundations enables these efforts and truly changes the odds for kids in our community and beyond.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

None of us escape life without experiencing some form of trauma. I was exposed to trauma early in life, struggled with depression and anxiety and received the gifts that come from moving through grief and suffering. As a young adult, I knew I wanted to work in a healing capacity and support the wellbeing of children. This informed my decision to pursue a Master’s in public health and work in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, child abuse and unintentional injuries, leading me to where I work now — in mental health and education. Today, I have two beautiful children and my love for them drives me to contribute to a world where there is equity in child wellbeing.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

Our societal norms indicate that we always need to “have it together.” We try to convey confident selves who can manage children and work effortlessly. We are hesitant to admit fault or mistakes when, in fact, it is only human to do so. I believe we miss the opportunity to vulnerably share our challenges and give others permission to do the same in trying to demonstrate perfection. Therefore, we think of a mental health diagnosis as an imperfection and something to hide.

This is unfortunate because, as with all things, there are gifts that come from these experiences and there are demonstrated effective approaches to treating mental health conditions. We have an opportunity to evolve and heal so that we can witness the journey of others in comparable situations.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

At Momentous Institute, we use a strengths-based methodology, which focuses on the strengths of the individual or family unit. Rather than seeking to narrow to diagnosis or pathology, we provide mental health services that build upon the assets of the individual or family.

Personally, I try to show up in life authentically. This means that I readily admit mistakes, apologize and try to learn from each situation, which also directly informs my parenting approach. I believe we are all hungry for this level of vulnerability. I recall a conversation I was having with a nephew who was struggling when I shared that, “Aunt Jessie has made all the mistakes that can be made in this lifetime, so you can share anything with me.” It was the quickest way for him and me to find a deep, heart connection.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Individuals can ask for help. Oftentimes, we self-isolate because we do not want to admit that we are struggling or place a burden on others. In actuality, we all benefit from connection and witnessing one another’s stories.

Societal norms have an opportunity to shift focus on the beauty in imperfection. Further, mental health conditions have genetic and biological indicators. It is not about strength or a lack thereof. It’s about a medical condition that requires treatment.

The government can do it more by supporting trauma-informed mental health interventions that do not escalate issues but contribute to sustainable wellbeing.

What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Honor your feelings. I witnessed and supported my mother through the loss of her husband, father, and son within less than five years. She is a stunning and courageous soul. Through this experience, she learned and shared with her children that there is no shortcut through suffering. We can feel it now or feel it later and there are gifts from sitting in pain.

When you feel weak — do the things that make you strong. A friend of mine shared this sentiment during a particularly difficult period of my life. I made a list of the things that I could do to strengthen my spirit, which included yoga, meditation, listening to music, journaling and connection to others. I developed a daily practice and decided that I would not abandon myself. One day, I realized that I felt strong again. I look back at this period and note that I grew tremendously during this time.

See difficult experiences as a wellspring of lessons. My mother always told me that the most challenging people in my life were my best teachers. At first, I did not understand this. Now, I can see that by viewing a challenging situation or individual as a teacher places me in the accountability seat. This perspective pulls you out of blame and into a growth perspective. I now know that I can develop wisdom from the most painful experience.

Work with a professional. I spent two decades of my life in therapy to overcome and grow from childhood trauma. Therapy helped me to understand the impact of trauma on our brain development, psychology, and physiology. With time, I was able to manage trauma symptoms. With more time, I was able to develop emotionally and make choices about the person that I want to be in this world. For me, therapy was the gift that keeps on giving.

Release the urge to numb. At this point in my life, I do not consume alcohol. That was not always the case. We have a tendency to want to numb experiences of pain. However, we cannot numb pain without numbing all of our other emotions. So, our world becomes gray and its vibrancy diminishes. While we think we cannot cope with some experiences, once we remove the element that numbs us, we realize that the pain will not kill us; rather, our hearts and spirits expand.

Laugh! Laugh at yourself and laugh with others. I have a very loud laugh for a person of limited stature. I am five feet tall and a little over 100 pounds, so I understand that it usually surprises people. My children want to crawl under the table in restaurants when I laugh and my work colleagues say they always know when I am in the building. I figure that I have shed enough tears in this lifetime to laugh really big.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Krista Tippit’s On Being is my favorite podcast. I appreciate the focus on vulnerability, honesty and the view of individuals as spiritual beings.

My favorite books that guide mental wellbeing are The Four Agreements, Return to Love, Anam Cara, The Book of Awakening and Bless the Space Between Us.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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