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Rising Stars: Meet Ian Adair

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian Adair.

Ian, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I believe how I grew up and some of the traumatic experiences that happened early in my life shaped the person I am today. I was raised, along with my older brother, in the Midwest and lived most of my young life in Oklahoma. Our family makeup was unique, my mother was Hispanic and my father Polish, and it was just the four of us for most of my childhood. Our family did not stay together very long. My father struggled with a drug addiction, which caused a number of problems for us financially, and forced us to move a lot. By the age of 19, I had lived in 16 different homes in four states. My father would leave for long periods of time when I was in elementary school and then finally for good when I was twelve, my mother divorced him soon after. To this day I have only seen my father twice in thirty-four years.

My mother was sick for a great deal of her adult life, battling lupus, diabetes, and cancer on three occasions. Because of her illnesses she was not able to work and my family spent years on government assistance in order to meet our basic needs. My mother did everything she could do give us a good home life, but because of her declining health she was not able to be as involved in our lives as she wanted to. She passed away in 2006. She taught me so much, I learned a lot of what I know today about resilience and the importance of a strong worth ethic from her.

Getting an athletic scholarship to attend college was my way out of my home situation and a path forward for me. School was always incredibly difficult for me because I struggled with dyslexia, but at Westminster College I received tutoring, counseling, and the support I needed to graduate. Toward the end of school I was also given opportunity to work with children and families in various community programs, this is where I found my passion for nonprofit work.

Having a career, so far spanning twenty-five years, where I get to help and serve others has been instrumental in my own healing and mental health. I have been very fortunate in my career to lead three organizations, all with missions I’m very connected to personally; youth development, equity in education, and mental health. All of this was made possible because I had mentors that came into my life, at just the right moments, to encourage me to take risk and seize opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise felt I was ready. For this, I will always be eternally grateful.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I had to navigate some tough situations and challenges early in my young adult life. This mainly centered around my father’s addiction and abandonment; and seeing my mother and brother both struggle with their mental health for years. I began to struggle with depression and experience panic attacks while in my early twenties and finally sought help after suffering for almost a decade.

Mental illness and substance abuse destroyed my family. Watching and caring for loved one’s battle these diseases shaped my life. I’m grateful that now I have the opportunity and platform to help change the discussion around mental health and encourage those suffering to get the help they need.

It’s always a challenge to admit you need to get help, and another to find the strength to accept it. I have lost two close friends to addiction and one to suicide, and not a day goes by that I do not think about them while I do this work.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am the Executive Director of the Gracepoint Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Gracepoint Wellness one of the largest behavioral health organizations in the state of Florida. Gracepoint impacts the lives of more than 30,000 individuals (children and adults) each year seeking mental health, addiction, and medical services. The Gracepoint Foundation is committed to supporting a strong mental health care system in our community through awareness, advocacy, and building strong community partnerships.

I have worked very hard to get where I am today in my career to be recognized as a nonprofit industry influencer, TEDx speaker, and expert in leadership, fundraising, and nonprofit management. I enjoy being a speaker, author, and advocate concerning mental health awareness and addressing mental health in the workplace. I am the author of the book, Stronger Than Stigma, A Call to Action: Stories of Grief, Loss, and Inspiration! and I also enjoy the opportunities I get to be a contributing writer to regional and national magazines on topics concerning leadership, mental health and wellness, and education.

In 2016, I was honored to be chosen as one of the Top 100 Must-Follow Giving Influencers on Twitter by Give Local America. In 2019, named as one of the Top 100 Charity Industry Influencers on Social Media in the World by Onalytica. In 2020, recognized as one of 30 Nonprofit Founders that will Impact the World in 2020 by Causeartist.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at many of the largest nonprofit leadership and fundraising conferences in the country. My keynotes and presentations are known for their high energy, humor, and radical candor. I think my speaking style sets me apart from others because of my willingness to combine vulnerability and authenticity with humor when I’m on stage, while at the same time poking a little fun at human behavior.

I would say the last six years, I have been on a mission to change the conversation around mental health from one that condemns and diminishes those suffering to one of empathy and support. I’m honored to be considered one of the leading voices in a movement to encourage leaders from all sectors to take bold action to support the mental health and wellbeing of our workforce. Every chance I get, no matter the stage or size of the audience, I like to say, “Talking about mental health today isn’t just a moment, talking about mental health today is a movement.”

What was your favorite childhood memory?
Some of my favorite memories growing up were spent with my small tight group of friends I met early on in high school, many of whom I’m still in touch with today. This group got me through some incredibly hard times, most of which they knew nothing about, and they helped me enjoy that time in my life. When I was around them I didn’t feel the weight of what was going on at home or think all the what ifs that could have consumed me. I didn’t know then what a support system was back then, but I will always be grateful for having these friends in my life when I needed them most.

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