Armed with Hope Conference – Omaha, Nebraska

Teen Mental Health & Teen Suicide Prevention Expert Jeff Yalden keynotes two years in a row…

On October 5, 2019 Teen Mental Health and Teen Suicide Prevention expert Jeff Yalden was invited back as keynote speaker for the Armed with Hope Conference, the second such event for teens impacted by depression and other mental health struggles – and presented by an awesome nonprofit called Teens Finding Hope.

Teens Finding Hope was formed in 2010 by mothers Kristi Barth and Sherry Krueger, who were looking for resources and support for their children, both of whom struggled with depression.

This year, the event took place in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year’s conference was in Portland, Oregon – co-founder Barth’s hometown.

“This was another great year talking mental health and suicide prevention with families, teens, local mental health professionals and the community,” said Yalden.

The Barth family is passionate about making a difference and giving hope to those suffering from mental illness or who have lost a loved one to suicide. They have had their own experiences within their family, but the difference is that they are not afraid to talk about it – because they know that this is the only way to break the stigma once and for all.

Yalden said it was a pleasure to work with the Barth family.

“They’re all involved and have such big hearts – giving back and working tirelessly to make a difference. I’m truly honored that they brought me back for a second year.”

This year, Yalden focused his keynote address on mental health and his theory on why teen suicide is an epidemic.  He talked about what teens tell him when they come to him for one-on-one conversations.  They’re feeling lonely, and loneliness means they don’t have meaningful relationships.  Often, a lonely teen doesn’t want to burden anybody with their problems – and that leads to a feeling that they are a disappointment to their parents and others.

Yalden also laid out his thoughts about smartphones, and especially how social media can become the antithesis of “social” – leading instead to isolation in our young people and the fallout from “the dopamine effect…”

“Every time a notification goes off on their phone, the chemical dopamine is released – and this sense of temporary euphoria leaves them wanting more and more,” he said, adding that the brain typically doesn’t mature until 24 or 25 years of age – but technology is so advanced that our young people are not capable of moderate use. For them, it’s all or nothing.

“Our youth are given the phones and expected to know better and be more responsible as if they are adults and should know better, but they don’t,” says Yalden.

When Yalden hears teens tell him they feel alone and a disappointment to others, the next question he asks the individual is about self-harm.  When he describes the timeline of a teen in crisis, self-harm typically comes into play, especially if they don’t know how to ask for help.

Why do teens self-harm?

Teens turn to self-harm when they want to feel like they are in control. Self-harm is not just about cutting, but Yalden says cutting is more often than not the go-to method.  Other methods would be self-medicating, reckless behavior, pulling their hair, banging their heads against the wall, punching themselves, scratching, picking skin, rubbing so deeply that it causes a rash – and more.

Most at-risk teens tell Yalden that they self-harm because it makes them feel better in the moment, but in the long run it only makes matters worse.

In cases like these, Yalden asks the young person is they are looking to feel better without the pain of self-harm. He is all about building the relationship and gaining their trust – and is successful because of this and that the fact that respect is given and reciprocated. This one-on-one is crucial.

Today’s teens want answers to the following questions.

Yalden is also successful in his work with teens because they can see that he understands them and knows how to speak their language.  He works with teens and school communities nearly 175 days a year – and deeply understands what is causing teens to be in crisis mode.

Another point Yalden makes is the fact that thoughts are simply thoughts – but feelings have to be shared and discussed. If not, many young people (and adults too) wind up acting out. He says that every teen needs a trusted adult that they can talk to. They can talk to friends too, of course, but these friends need to be taught what to do if the other young person is in crisis.

If you see something, you must say something. If you know something, you must do something. It should be as simple as that.

When talking about teen mental health and suicide prevention, we must be keenly aware that saying something can save someone’s life. Ultimately, the young person in crisis needs to be guided to a mental health professional – but if you don’t say something, we can’t help.

We can’t help if we don’t know.

If the RED FLAGS are present – their feelings having come to the surface coupled with self-harm – the last questions Yalden asks are whether or not the teen wants to die and whether or not they have a plan to act on that impulse.

Yalden doesn’t believe that teens want to die. It’s more like they don’t see a solution to their problems in the here-and-now – and they don’t yet have the foresight to see that the problems facing them are temporary. They see no point in going on, and some make a forever decision based on the emotional pain they are experiencing in the moment. Yalden teaches that our youth are struggling with coping skills and problem-solving skills.

The solution? Teens need to be taught that life isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress, and the skills needed to cope and solve problems can be learned.

One way to correct this is to make sure your kids spend less time on their devices and more time in the real world – interacting with their peers and others.  In his book, Teen Suicide: The WHY Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic, Yalden says that if you spend more than four to five hours a day on your smartphone, you are 70 percent more likely to have major depression in your life.

Put the phone down and get involved.  Make sure you are getting eight hours of sleep per night.  Lastly, nutrition plays a role.  Less sugar and more protein.  Less processed foods.

Jeff’s keynote was limited to 30 minutes.  He was simple and direct in his explanation of complex issues – and went on to do a workshop for adults and later, teens.  Each workshop was roughly 50 minutes long, where he expanded on talking points and answered questions.

Yalden has prepared an online course for teachers, staff, administrators, counselors – but also for parents and community members.  Another online course on teen mental health and teen suicide prevention highlights the “WHY” behind this troubling phenomenon.  CLICK HERE for more information.

If you would like Jeff Yalden to visit your school community, please visit

Jeff is one of the most sought-after mental health speakers in America – not only in school environments, but he also speaks at many national mental health conferences for adults and mental health professionals.  Contact Yalden today by emailing Betty at

Link to Course:

Link to Jeff Yalden’s Website:

Link to book, “Teen Suicide: They WHY . . .”

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