Teen Suicide and School Administration: Let’s Not Be Critical of How It’s Handled!
I receive another message of how the local community doesn’t agree with how school administration is handling a teen suicide in their community.
Recently, I visited a school district and spent two days after this community had decided they needed to do something after another teen suicide and the suicide of a staff member. Two wonderful days with middle school students and high school students, staff, teachers, counselors and parents.
Then I get an email from a local pastor who is critical of how the school administration is handling or not handling the teen suicide. It’s not a secret that teen suicide is a major problem in our schools and an epidemic in America. Learning what to do and how to address teen suicide by school administration doesn’t come with a certificate of completion and in my professional opinion shouldn’t be criticized by anyone. I feel that our community of parents, local organizations, and community leaders should support our school administration and counselors and build relationships so that we have more people that can be available and more resources if called upon in the event of a school crisis.
Jeff Yalden Responds to Local Pastor
First, I want to say I have great respect for pastors and our community leaders and applaud anyone wanting to serve and help. With that said, this is a message from a local pastor in the community I recently visited. Pastor for 17 years. Thank you. I can’t imagine being liked by a community when a pastor stands in front every week and preaches. Sometimes you challenge people and people don’t like that. Seventeen years deserves an applause.
Pastor states, “Sadly, I feel the school has put it’s head in the sand for years and refused to talk about things or do much to help.”
I’ve worked with school districts for more than three decades mostly on teen suicide and teen mental health. I feel I can add to this and provide some understanding. I’ve worked with students, families, counselors, teachers, and school administrators to include principals and superintendents. I’ve also worked with many a local pastors and mental health professionals. To each and every person I’ve worked with I’ve walked away having learned from them and also having given my heart and soul to what they’re having had to deal with and educating them to be more prepared and present in the event they have a crisis in their school community moving forward.
I’d like to respond to any faith based leader or community organization that feels schools don’t handle student suicides accordingly.
Sign up to take Teen Suicide Prevention Online Course for School Communities (CLICK HERE).
I can certainly tell you that I’ve never met a school administrator who has his or her head in the sand and is avoiding dealing with teen suicide or mental health challenges in their schools. I feel that is a strong statement coming with lack of compassion and empathy.
I’ll tell you that many of our school administrators are overwhelmed and wanting to make sure they act accordingly so that they proceed in a manner that protects and supports everyone where they are and with what they’re all going through with thoughts and feelings. Consider also, school administrators have to protect the family, the staff and teachers, and the students. Legally, they have to check boxes too. They are overwhelmed and most school communities don’t have a protocol to follow. They’re working on it though.
Please give compassion and grace to our schools. Our teachers, staff members, coaches, parents, and school administrators need support from one another. Just as our students do. To criticize is wrong. To be supportive and advocate would be acting with grace and compassion. This is new to our school administrators and they’re all learning.
Principals and Superintendents Don’t Receive Certificates for Teen Suicide
One of the very first things I can tell you is that no administrator is given a certificate on how to deal with the loss of one of their students or staff members by suicide. Let’s have some grace and understand the pressure they feel when the principals and superintendent has to make decisions based on what they think is best for their staff, the families, and the students in the here and the now, but also as they all move forward as a community.
You’d be amazed at how many mental health professionals, doctors and nurses don’t even know how to do a proper suicide assessment. 85% of people who do assessments aren’t properly trained to do an effective suicide assessment and we are criticizing our school administration? I think that is wrong.
What could make a difference is how we all normalize the conversation and silence the stigma that would allow us to feel better about learning and educating ourselves with teen mental health and suicide. Do you even know the difference between mental health challenges and mental health crisis?
A challenge is when your emotions, behaviors, feelings and thoughts are being affected. Whereas, a crisis is when what’s being affected now results in a person wanting to hurt themselves or someone else.
Teen Suicide: An Epidemic in America
Teen suicide continues to be a serious problem that our schools are having to deal with. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 years old. The leading cause of suicide amongst young people who attempt suicide is a significant mental health disorder, usually depression.
Amongst younger teens suicide is often impulsive. This is a result of feelings of sadness, confusion, anger, or problems with attention and hyperactivity. Amongst teenagers though, suicide attempts are mostly associated with feelings of stress, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, disappointment and loss. For some teens, suicide appears to be a solution to their problems.
Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. Please don’t self diagnose your child if you have concerns about their mental health. As always say, “five out of five people have physical health and five out of five people also have mental health.” Do not be ashamed and take all signs seriously.
Suicide Prevention in Schools
I feel that the one to two hours of suicide prevention in schools that has been mandated isn’t enough. With that being said, I’m thankful that our school communities are trying to do the best they can to incorporate mental health into their every day lessons. It’s going to take time, but I will tell you that we are making great improvement and I applaud our schools. Let’s all get behind them and show our support.
The first thing I tell a school administrator is that their number one priority is to take care of their teachers and staff members. It’s the teachers and the staff members that have to be with the students who are grieving. Teachers, coaches, staff know the students best and students are best in school being with their trusted and significant adults.
Also consider when a suicide happens and how that affects how a school responds. You have to understand that no suicide is treated the same. Whether it is a suicide that happened over summer break, vacation, during school hours, a middle school student or a high school student. People are affected differently and its effect on the school community is also different. Nonetheless, the loss of one of our students is crippling and emotionally heartbreaking for our school staff, friends, and most of all the families. Suicide is the most preventable form of death and we all have a responsibility to normalize the conversation and silence the stigma.
A school administrator has to be responsible for the messages that their teachers and students are getting and who is giving the messages. Being proactive as a school community doesn’t mean finding every local resource and inviting them into the school to talk about teen mental health and suicide prevention. Can you imagine someone coming in and not knowing how to address teen suicide and the consequences of their words, opinions, and how it’s perceived by the students and the staff? That happens all the time.
It’s not that administrators don’t want help, but in the case of dealing with suicide maybe less is more. Less is more because there are so many factors to consider and address. School administrators don’t have the experience or education, but they’re asking questions and reaching out to their local administrators in other communities as to what they might have done if they’ve had a student suicide.
If you ask me, a school administrator is dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. They’re not going to make everyone happy with how they dealt with it. What matters most is that they communicate and seek the professional advice from a close circle of experienced professionals.
A Pastors Role with Suicide in the Community
Every faith community has someone who has been affected by suicide in a personal way. Therefore, the topic of mental health and suicide has come into our churches and in my opinion our church community has a great responsibility to be talking more about mental health and suicide. We need more people to normalize the conversation and encourage their congregation to speak about thoughts and feelings. Again, silence the stigma.
Pastors and clergy members play a significant role as families and people move through the grieving process after a loss or a suicide. They’re anchors and a source of hope for survivors and people in recovery. A pastor must be supportive, compassionate, empathetic, nurturing, and a guide in helping people move forward. Pastors are a great source to the community and do very well for people in crisis. Pastors are a valuable support to everyone.
However, a title doesn’t make you the expert and the logical person to call when it comes to school administration and counselors. They’re good. They’re doing their best and our job is to support them doing the best they can with the information they have and protecting the school community.
That being said, here is my main point and the one tip I want to offer anyone wanted to work with their school community.
Build that relationship with the school administration, counselors, parents, etc. The time to say, “I’m a great resource isn’t after a crisis.” The time is now. Volunteer. Serve. Get involved. Attend events. Show your support. Get to know the staff. Now that you’ve done all that they’ll know who you are and in the unfortunate event of a crisis the school administration and counselors will know you’re a great resource and if needed will reach out to you. If they don’t reach out to you, you can reach out to them because they’ll know you and trust you to support them as needed. Build the relationship now so that you can serve when they need you the most.
In conclusion, what I want to say is that a pastor or anyone should try and contact the school administration and discuss ahead of time how they can be a source of help. Being proactive is building relationships. That is what is important and when that relationship is built our school community will know who they can call upon in the event of a crisis.
What a pastor and local organizations can do is support the school administrations and staff. Support your parents and the community (your congregation) as best you can. Be comfortable talking with your people about mental health and suicide. It’s important we all play a role in our circle of trusted friends and families. We are all a part of the much needed conversation to normalize the conversation around mental health and silence the stigma.
Together we can serve one another.
Dear parents and community of Suffield, CT:
Instead of doing a parent presentation on my visit to your community we decided I’d record a presentation for you. Parent presentations are tough to do with such busy lives and time. This is a great way you can learn about teen mental health and understanding your teens today. Please enjoy and feel free to share with parents you know.
Jeff Yalden visited Suffield, CT on April 1, 2022 to speak to the middle school and high school students about teen mental health and suicide prevention. He also pre-recorded a parent presentation for parents of teens and the community.
Please download by clicking the button and save it to your computer to watch the message Jeff shared with the community.
If you’re interested in Jeff’s new program for school communities and parents, please visit www.JeffYalden.com/Phoenix. This program is to help teens in crisis or facing mental health challenges. Your teen might not want therapy or to go to the emergency room. Jeff designed this online course to help your teen or student discover themselves and be okay communicating their thoughts and feelings.
Please visit www.JeffYalden.com/Phoenix. It’s coming soon!
You can’t live your best life anymore. People can’t think, reason, or act for themselves because social media platforms and the way algorithms are set up have you controlled and you don’t even know it, or maybe you do. Well, you probably should and I hope I can shed some light on how today’s algorithms are set up to put more distance between the American people and you more connected to those that have the same thoughts and viewpoints as you do.
Here is my Week 3 Blog Post. It’s on another channel I operate. I wanted to switch to my own personal page because I am getting more expressive as I am learning a lot more in our Introduction to Social Media class with Capella.
My Week 3 Blog Post: Then, I put it all on our Blog at https://heretomorrow.org/2021/12/04/here-tomorrow-is-presenting-to-the-state-leaders/
I want to shed light (objectively) of course on how algorithms today are designed to have cognitive biases that intensify homophily and contribute to isolation amongst people. I see this everyday in my work in mental health and depression which ultimately lead to the clients I see in my office thinking suicide is their answer because they’re feeling alone and a burden or disappointment in society.
Here are the risks if you’re not aware of how your digital footprint is being created and the American people are being divided. The phenomenon of social media networks is bringing about more bullying, hate speech, political extremism, and radicalization of terrorists, and stronger left and right wing groups.
As a professional speaker for the past 30 years I’ve spoken to well over 4,000 live audiences in 49 countries and every Province in Canada, not to mention all 50 states. One question, I have always asked is, “Who is the hardest person to get to know?” I hear whispers every time from people saying, “Ourselves.” Yes. Exactly. The Ancients say, “Know thyself.” We are terrible at this, aren’t we? Now the internet is making it that much harder for us to get to know ourselves.
The internet is getting to know you more than you know yourself. Everything about you can be computed from our Facebook likes (McCarthy-Jones, 2017). Machines are using our online data for a digital footprint that you’re not aware of. The result is that your online data knows more about you than your friends and family members. Artificial intelligence is using our social network data, and it’ll know even more. The new challenge is how to live in a world when others know you better than you know yourself. WOW! Think about that and you’re really f*cked, huh?
Gather around the campfire with people you don’t even know, but you do because you all share commonalities. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all brought you closer together because of all the data they have captured.
Being present online today comes with a cost personally and politically. You must decide if the benefits of being so present online outweigh the cost and control.
Social networking is addictive. The chemical dopamine is a drug that infiltrates the human mind saying, “I want more . . . I want more.” Before you know it half the day is gone and you’re still perusing Tik Tok videos.
Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, recently discussed the thought process that went into building this social network. He described it as being:
All about how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?Sean Parker, Facebook
To do this, the user had to be given:
A little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post . . . and that’s going to get you to contribute more.Sean Parker, Facebook
That is the problem today.
Years ago, algorithms were user friendly to keep you engaged and on the platform (2019). Today, it’s changed. Algorithms are for people who produce content consistently because you become a fan and express a liking to that user or content so you get more of that information. Now you and this content creator are shared likes and interests and ads are generated by the algorithms to produce revenue. The focus is on likes and dislikes for competition to sell and produce revenue. It’s about buying and selling.
That is why you are bombarded with consistent ads to keep you on the platform as long as possible and you’re being targeted with those that have the same captured data as you because everything is being recorded and documented.
You can’t think, reason, and act anymore because our social media platforms aren’t engaging in discussions like face-to-face connection. So, we are all in agreement with like-minded people because we aren’t not seeing other views from people.
In my opinion, we need to let the internet control us less. How do we do that?
You’re More Than an Algorithm
You can’t beat the algorithm game. However, you can be more objective and broaden your thoughts processes. Click on stories or links you might not normally read. Do some more research and fact checking. Have more of an open-mind. Be more willing to hear opposing views. Do not allow yourself to be put into a box. You can certainly enjoy being around the campfire with others who have different views and get along.
We need to keep control of how we want our world to be. Don’t get sucked in to one way thinking. You’re too smart for that.
YouTube. (2019, February 18). Social Media Algorithms for dummies. YouTube. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbyrHM7y5u8.
McCarthy-Jones, S. (2017, December 8). Are Social Networking Sites Controlling your mind? Scientific American. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-social-networking-sites-controlling-your-mind/.
5 Key Concepts to Living Effectively with Mental Illness
Suicide is a public health challenge that causes immeasurable pain to individuals, families, and communities across the state and country. According to Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, in 2019 the State of Florida had 3,427 people die by suicide. The 5 Key Concepts to Living Effectively with Mental Illness teaches the five concepts important for wellness and recovery.
Here Tomorrow is here to help the city of Jacksonville, Florida. We are a mental health collaborative in Neptune Beach, FL. Our goal is to serve the Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Jacksonville Beach communities providing free mental health services.
Jacksonville Suicide Fact: For every death by suicide, there are 20 more who attempt suicide.
There is major concern for the upward drift of suicide deaths in 2021 due to the projected mental health impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida. Every person needs to be responsible for their mental health and in looking out for others. Here Tomorrow is here to guide our community members to the starting line and face the problem head on. To start, it’s leading with educating the Jacksonville community about mental health and trying to normalize the conversation. By doing this we will reduce the stigma associated with mental health and give people the courage to speak openly and ask for help without being judged.
Mental health in Florida is a state-wide public health concern. Suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. and has increased in almost every state over time. While suicide is often linked to underlying mental health conditions, that is not always the case, as a combination of factors generally contgribute to an individual having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide. Risk factors for suicide include isolation, relationship struggles, financial or housing insecurity, or problems with physical health. Add in the pandemic and this is a major concern we are trying to tackle at Here Tomorrow, a mental health collaborative in Neptune Beach, Florida.
Talking about mental health shouldn’t be talked about with a negative connotation. There is no health without mental health. The brain is the bodies most important organ and mental health is a disorder of the brain experienced by 1 in 4 adults. This includes depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD. If I were to talk about stress, anxiety, fear, being overwhelmed, feelings of disappointment and more we’d be talking a greater number than just 25%.
Just like any other disease in the body, mental illness has many causes – from genetics to other biological, environmental and social or cultural factors. And just like many other diseases, mental illness is no one’s fault.
More importantly, mental illnesses are treatable through medication and professional mental health professionals. Mental health is also treated by proper self-care practices and the knowledge to know how to respond rather than react when emotions are getting the best of you. The usual behaviors associated with some illnesses are symptoms of mental health diseases – not the cause. Any person living with mental illness can live a fulfilling and productive life with the right knowledge, practicing healthy habits, and of course having good coping skills.
At Here Tomorrow, a mental health collaborative in Neptune Beach, FL we serve our beach communities with no cost services to those in need of good mental health care and/or suicidal ideation. We partner with local community organizations here in Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Jacksonville Beach to get our friends (we call our clients, friends) the help they need within 24 hours and help them through the process. Mental health in Florida is of great concern and we are here to serve.
Did you know that in Duval and St. Johns counties alone, the worst thing that could happen happened on more days than not in the year of 2019? 230 members of our community were lost to suicide. And yet suicide is the most preventable form of death.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.Ja
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.Ja
In adults living with mental illness 61.7 did not receive treatment. The national average is 55.8%. When you consider access to treatmentn and measure it against insurance, access, quality and cost of insurance, and workforce availability, Florida ranks 44th in the nation, according to The State of Mental Health in America 2018, Mental Health America.
Florida suicide statistics is higher than the national average and Duval County is in the top 5 counties in the state of Florida. 93% of the state of Florida experienced more suicides than homicides in 2020.
Fiction: “Mental Illness is a sign of weakness.”
Fact: A mental illness is not caused by personal weakness – nor can it be cured by positive thinking or willpower – proper treatment is needed.
Fiction: Only military personnel who have been in combat can be diagnosed with PTSD.
Fact: While PTSD is prevalent in men and women who have seen combat, experiencing or witnessing a traumatic even can trigger PTSD, including violent personal assaults suchy as rape or robbery, natural or human-caused disasters, or accidents.
Fiction: People with a mental illness will never get better.
Fact: For some people, a mental illness may be a lifelong condition, like diabetes. But as with diabetes, proper treatment enables many people with a mental illness to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Fiction: Children aren’t diagnosed with mental illness.
Fact: Millions of children are affected by depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. As a matter of fact, 1 in 10 children live with a diagnosable mental illness. Getting treatment is essential.
Fiction: Mental illness can’t affect me.
Fact: Mental illness can affect anyone. While some illnesses have a genetic risk, mental illness can affect people of all ages, races and income levels, whether or not there is a family history.
Friends, I’m Jeff Yalden and I’m excited to share with you 5 Key Concepts to Living Effectively with Mental Illness. Now, before we get started, know that I am not saying YOU live with mental illness. I don’t know you and I don’t want to diagnose anyone, but I want you or anyone watching this to be aware of how to effectively manage their mental well-being. Or, what I like to call mental hydration.
First, have you ever been stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed? Don’t answer. You probably said, “Yeah!”, Like who hasn’t, right? Well, being overwhelmed is now a clinical diagnosis of mental illness. So, this is for everyone whether you live with mental illness or not. Also, talking about mental health shouldn’t be talked about in a negative way either.
Let’s get started.
First, I’m Jeff and I am honored to be in this space with you. I am the director of education and community outreach for HERE TOMORROW in Neptune Beach, FL. We are a mental health collaborative that provides free services to our incredible community. Prior to my work with Here Tomorrow, I traveled the world working and consulting with school communities as a mental health motivational speaker. I’ve written four-best-selling books including, Teen Suicide: The WHY Behind Today’s Suicide Epidemic.
As we move to the next slide, I want to tell you a little about me. I live (PROUDLY) with mental illness. I am diagnosed with major depression, bi-polar type 2, and PTSD. I say PROUDLY because when I was diagnosed it was a great relief. All of a sudden, I realized that a lot of issues in my life weren’t because of him, her, this or that, but it was me.
So, I am passionate about teaching this and advocating for mental hydration.
5 Concepts to living effectively with mental illness. We are going to talk about Hope, Personal Responsibility, Education, Self-Advocacy, and Support.
HOPE – What is hope. We all experience some sort of life and health difficulties such as mental health challenges, addictions, loss, diabetes, or again, right? Yet we can get well, stay well, and go on to fulfill our life dreams and goals.
Many of us who have dealt with challenges often find that having a purpose is the first step toward success. Developing a purpose involved finding and holding on to some type of hope. Don’t spend time focusing on negative predictions from people who don’t share the hope you have. Instead, work toward – and meet – your goals, no matter what challenges you have experienced. You can lead a happy and productive life no matter what may have happened in the past.
What does hope mean for you. What makes you feel hopeful? Where do you find hope? Some people hope to be reunified with family. Some hope to repair broken relationships. Some hope to find a meaningful career or get an education. What do you hope for? What is hope . . .What does it mean to you? Take a moment and write what hope is for you and what it means.
Don’t ever lose hope. Always believe that it’ll be okay and you can work through anything.
So, create an action plan for finding hope in your life. Think about small steps you can take to find hope in your life. Some people find it through spirituality. Some, it means connecting with mentors who have been through some of the things they’ve been through. They each have something in common. These people are living proof that you can fulfill the dreams you have for yourself. Some other people feel hopeful when they do something for someone else. What are small things you can do to find and encourage hope? Take time and think about your answers and put them down on paper.
Personal Responsibility – Taking personal responsibility does not mean holding On to blame , shame , guilt or self-criticism. It means looking at how you can be accountable for your choices. More importantly, it helps you see what actions you need to take if you want to make different choices as you move forward. You are the expert on yourself. It is up to you to take responsibility for your own Wellness. Sometimes this means re- taking the responsibility for your life that you gave up in the past.
Here are some ways that people have described taking personal responsibility:
- self-reliance- doing things for themselves and making their own decisions
- helping when they can
- not lying, cheating, or stealing
- staying reliable – that means following through on promises you make
- apologizing when you make mistakes or you may hurt others
Remember, you or your own manager.
So what does personal responsibility mean for you – How do you define personal responsibility in your life? When or where have you taken responsibility? When or where have you avoided taking responsibility? When or where would you like to take responsibility? Take a moment to write your answers. You can answer any all or none of these questions- it’s up to you. Remember you’re the manager of your life. You’re the captain of your ship.
Creating an action plan for taking responsibility – thinking about personal responsibility in your life so far, and looking at the ideas and thoughts I’ve shared, what are some things that you could do to take responsibility in your life right now? Take a moment write down your answers. Remember, you can be as deep as you want. This is for you and your well-bring.
Moving to Education – Education is not so much about textbook learning as it is about the process of self-discovery period getting to know yourself. Self-discovery can help you achieve a sense of balance, and having a balanced view of yourself can give you a better idea of who you really are none of us have done everything the right way, but all of us have done some things well. Hopefully , you can become accepting and encouraging of yourself. This doesn’t mean giving up your responsibility for past actions and how they affected others. But it does mean giving yourself permission to move forward, to learn and change, and to choose how you react to the world around you. It means you can shape your own future. You’re not today who you were yesterday. That’s education you’re always growing and learning.
Here’s the thing, learning whatever you can about yourself helps you make good decisions about all aspects of life. It gives you the power to respond to life’s challenges instead of just reacting to events. It lets you consider all the options and decide which ones are right for you.
Let’s look at some ways that people have defined education :
- learning what boundaries are
- learning from mistakes
- recognizing negative behaviors
- understanding past experiences
- getting in touch with themselves
- being comfortable with themselves
- accepting their past
- learning how to live a happy life
- learning all that they can about themselves
- trying different things
- learning by doing the next right thing
- learning to love themselves
- breaking down life experiences and extracting the lesson to be learned
- taking advantage of things they can see and they can hear
- understanding why they do the things they do
- learning to respect others nonjudgmentally and with compassion and empathy
- loving others the way that they want to be loved
- asking for help when they need it
- and believing in themselves
How do you define education? What could more education about yourself or something else do for you? So, I want you to take a moment to write your answers.
Here are other questions to spark your thinking: What are some of the goals you have about education? What are some of the things you are interested in learning? What are the opportunities you have now or want to have when it comes to education? What educational programs have you already taken advantage of? So, let’s create an action plan for education what are some ways that you can act to educate yourself? What actions can you take right away? What are some of the small steps that you can take? What are some of the actions you would like to take some time in the future? Here’s what I want you to do, take a moment to write your answers.
Great Job! Let’s move to Self-Advocacy
Become a strong advocate for yourself. This means working to get what you need with courage, persistence, and determination. When you self-advocate, you express your needs and make requests respectfully, clearly, and calmly. The world doesn’t owe you anything, so it’s up to you to decide how to express your needs to others. Most people are more likely to listen to a calm, respectful request than a demand. You can practice this in everyday conversations in everyday life. You may find it helpful to let your supporters or family members know what you need from them and ask what they are willing and not willing to do.
Let me give you some descriptions of what self advocacy is:
- speaking up for what you want and what you need
- explaining yourself
- believing that you are worth it
- having self confidence
- speaking up for your rights
- making a case for yourself
- setting achievable goals
- knowing when and how to ask for help
- self help
- standing up for what you believe in
- having drive, determination, and motivation!
- being motivated not being afraid of failure
How can you practice advocating for yourself?
What are situations in which you can advocate for yourself and your needs? Where can you practice this skill? What can you do to improve your skills? Again, take a moment and write down some of your answers.
Let’s create an action plan for communicating your needs with others next paragraph how can you practice communicating your needs to others? What are some things that you can say to advocate for your needs and preferences calmly and assertively? Again, take a moment write down your answers.
Last Component . . . SUPPORT.
Listen we can’t go about this alone. Support from family, friends, community, and service providers is very important. Let me tell you something, people feel better when they have effective support. A circle of support helps enrich ones life. The most valuable things a supportive can do is listen- that’s in person, by phone, or through text messages or emails.
A good supporter knows that unasked for advice, criticism, and judgments don’t help and sometimes make things worse. When you need support, it’s important to let people know exactly what you want and what you need. For instance , you might say, today I need you to just listen to me. Or you can say this, today I’d really like to hear your suggestions so I can decide whether they are good options for me. More so, supportive relationships are mutually supportive. Be there for others when they need you, and ask them to be there for you when you need them.
So what does support mean for you?
How do you define support? What are some sources of support in your life, either now or in the past? What support would you like to get? Take a moment write down some of your answers.
Here’s my question to you , what can you do to build your support system? Who could you develop a relationship with? What kind of support could you ask for? What kind of support can you offer in return? Again, take a moment and write down your answers.
Here Tomorrow . . . A Different Kind of Approach to Mental Healthcare
Hi! However you came to this blog and wherever you’re coming from – thank you for being here today. This is the first blog at Here Tomorrow . . . a mental health collaborative located in Neptune Beach, FL. Our goal at Here Tomorrow is to serve Duval County, focusing especially on the three beach communities of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach.
The Story of Here Tomorrow
In 2015, a group of concerned Jacksonville citizens identified that mental health was an issue that wasn’t addressed in our local beach communities. This particular group continued to discuss how they could be more proactive in normalizing the conversation around mental health and support those who suffer in silence. The group had regular monthly conversations; excitement grew as they determined that they could make a difference. They brainstormed on how to create a unique solution with a new approach; they wanted to create a bridge to allow those who are here today also to be here tomorrow.
Thus, Here Tomorrow was born.
Who is Here Today?
After forming the board of directors for Here Tomorrow, completing the non-profit foundation application, and securing adequate finances, the first official employees were hired.
Executive Director: Hannah Hackworth, LCSW, MBA comes to Here Tomorrow with a wealth of experience and knowledge in non-profit, mental health, clinical practice and research. With Hannah’s incredible experience and passion for mental health and community the vision and light came to fruition.
Director of Education & Community Outreach: Jeff Yalden comes to Here Tomorrow with a wealth of experience in mental health. A celebrity teen and family life coach on the hit MTV reality show MADE, Jeff has worked with hundreds of school communities educating school administrators, teens, teachers, and counselors on today’s mental health and suicide epidemic. He’s lectured and consulted all over the world; he’s visited 49 countries, all 50 states, and every province in Canada educating others on mental healthcare, suicide prevention, and crisis intervention. He’s a four-time bestselling author, TEDx Speaker, and renowned mental health motivational speaker.
More important than his credentials as a mental health advocate, Jeff has personal experience with mental illness. When Jeff was diagnosed with mental illness, it was a relief. The diagnosis and a hard look in the mirror verified that Jeff caused challenges for himself and the world was not out to get him. This revelation led to acceptance and the willingness to say, “enough is enough!”; Jeff asked for help.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Walking through the door to ask for help can be frightening and intimidating. There is a stigma associated with admitting weakness; there is the fear of being judged by someone who doesn’t know you. And how do you explain how you feel to someone else when you can’t find the right words?
As Jeff says, “It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay not to be okay and not do anything about it.” In other words, you don’t have to live in isolation thinking you’re the only one who feels like you do. You’re not the only one who feels scared, depressed, and lonely. You can ask for help and that is okay. You can reach out and walk through the door of our safe space and we’ll be here to listen. Admitting you need some help and reaching out to ask for it is the first and most courageous thing you can do.
Our Heartfelt Wish and Unwavering Mission
Our mission is simple. We strive to transform lives by building a community where mental healthcare is acceptable and accessible. When life throws you pain, and it begins to feel unbearable, we will stand by you and help navigate you through it. As a mental health collaborative, we partner with other community organizations to make sure you get the help you are looking for when you need it.
Here Tomorrow is here to help.
Our goal is to serve our community and the wonderful people and families in it by providing resources and support for individuals who speak up and reach out.
According to the State of Florida Duval County Community Health Needs Assessment, mental health is the number one public health challenge in Duval County. And yet, until now, there has been no local organized support; Here Tomorrow was founded to address this need.
Suicide Fact: For every death by suicide, there are 20 more who attempt suicide.
The data is crystal clear; Americans are missing the mark. In fact, our country’s solution to reducing the number of deaths by suicide is beyond off course. In this marathon, we are running away from the finish line when what we need to do is step up to the starting line.
How much longer will our community turn and run away without looking back? Here Tomorrow is here to guide our community members to the starting line and face the problem head on. There is no more turning away.
Why Here Tomorrow?
Asking for help is a powerful first step and you can do it anywhere, even from the privacy of your own home. But Here Tomorrow strives to provide a unique solution that grants clarity and structure. Here Tomorrow will assist those brave enough to walk through the door with creating a personalized plan for success and then provide the appropriate support to work the plan. Here Tomorrow is here to let you know that you are not alone.
At Here Tomorrow, we want you to explore your options and while doing that we want to connect you with what you are looking for to change your current situation. Listen, you know yourself better than anyone else. We collaborate with service organizations and mental healthcare practitioners to help you find what you might need, when you might need it. Our team at Here Tomorrow is always here to serve you, and there is absolutely no cost to you for our services. Did you read that? No cost to you for our services.
The Safe Space at Here Tomorrow
Here Tomorrow offers a warm, welcoming physical and virtual space to have conversations about mental health and receive guidance on what to do if mental health problems get in the way of your living your best life.
Here Tomorrow is here to help you when you need it most. Do you need someone to listen? We are here to listen in a safe space, without judgement. You’ve got questions about how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking? Well, we’ve got answers for you. You can trust in us to give you sound advice and help you with a plan of action. We can answer your questions about mental health treatment, a self-care plan, and more. Count on us to provide you with the information you need to choose the best path for you and know we will stand by you through the process.
Here Tomorrow Believes
First, we believe in you and want you to believe in yourself, too. We believe that you are not alone in suffering. Emotional pain can knock you down and it can be hard to get back up; we believe that if you look up, you can get up. If you look to Here Tomorrow, we will help you up. You are not alone.
We believe that you don’t need to live with unbearable pain. Living with mental health conditions is possible. Even the worst storms pass and make way for the sun to shine again. When we achieve our vision that all community members in need can access mental healthcare and live full, meaningful lives, everyone wins.
We believe in you and your well-being. We want you to believe it’s possible and we are here to help you realize that.
Here Tomorrow: COVID-19 policies
At Here Tomorrow, we are doing everything we can to stand strong; we provide a safe brick and mortar space for consultation while adhering to all CDC recommended protocols. And the timing couldn’t be more relevant; it doesn’t take a psychology degree to understand that the increased social isolation forced upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic increases depression and puts some at-risk individuals at greater risk. Don’t suffer any longer. Don’t let COVID-19 be an excuse to reach out for help. There is no better time than now.
Here Tomorrow: Here Today
So, here we are! We are now officially open and ready to serve. If you or someone you know is suffering, we are a great first place to seek help or information. There is no cost to you and no obligation on your part. We’ll be happy to provide answers to your questions, show you what local assistance is available, and help you determine your options. Most importantly, know that Here Tomorrow is here today to support you; we will follow through with you to make sure you are getting what you need and a plan is in place for your safety and well-being.
We’re happy to be here serving the wonderful people of our community.
How to reach us . . .
Hey my friends . . . This has been a rough year for everyone, but especially for teenagers. Many have missed out on experiences that define the teenage years – things like prom, homecoming, and even just defining who you are in a group of friends. Covid has caused more problems for teen mental health than we can care to think about. Here are 3 Tips to Boost Teens Self-Esteem.
I’m Jeff Yalden, teen mental health and suicide prevention expert with Here Tomorrow in Neptune Beach, I’ve been working with schools and school communities for the past thirty years. Teens are my love and passion.
Listen, a teenager’s social-emotional development is also hinged on their brain development, hormones and neurotransmitters.
Erik Erikson’s theory of development says that it is during this time that an adolescent will begin to develop and question their own sense of self. In this day of social media, it is becoming more difficult to find who you are and where you belong. Teens are inundated with images that speak to their worth and comparison of others.
A pioneer in social media and the psychology of its impact on esteem and mental health is Jonathan Bertrand. Bertrand’s position is that social media use has a profound impact on the development of self and often interferes with mental health and esteem-related issues. Combine that with Erikson’s work and you have a bit of a potentially disastrous combination.
With that being said, I want to share with you 3 Tips to help teens boost their self-esteem.
Tip #1: Avoid excessive exposure to social media
More than 4-5 hours a day . . . 70% more likely to have major depression and other mental health conditions. So, when possible, eliminate or really reduce the use of social media. Let me add emphasis to social media being recognized as part of one’s self-esteem issues.
Here is the deal, If your teen struggles with body image, lifestyle comparison or feelings of inadequacy then social media may be a piece of that puzzle.
Here is what I am suggesting . . . Setting some limits, like turning off all technology a couple of hours before bed and limited overall time on social media. Trust me, this is a good place to start.
However, this might be difficult as you get resistance. You might then consider having some conversations about social media and its impact and invite your teen into the conversation rather than it being a lecture. After 24 hours, you’ll think you have a new teenager.
Tip #2: Use thought stopping
Another strategy is to use thought-stopping. Here is what that is. We cannot control a thought when it comes into your head, but we can control what we do with the thought. Don’t hang on to a negative thought. Instead, say ‘stop’ and think of something else. Over time this will help to create new neural connections in your brain instead of circling the negativity drain.
Helping teens understand they can have control over how they handle thoughts is a powerful way to build self-esteem. Think of it this way, situations become thoughts. Thoughts become feelings. Feelings become behaviors. Stop the negative thoughts. Another term for this is Behavioral Activation. If it’s not right . . . Change the thought.
Tip #3: Build mastery
Find an activity that you enjoy and work toward building mastery. This will not only encourage you to find a group of people with similar interests, but it will also build your sense of worth within yourself and within the group. Start by sampling some things that you have a a little of interest in and explore them. If it is a sport, commit to the season. If it is a new hobby or club, give it at least 3 months of your time. Building mastery is a great way to solidify your confidence.
Put down the devices and get more involved.
Contact Jeff today. (CLICK HERE)
Renowned Teen Mental Health Speaker and Teen Suicide Prevention Expert gives you a FREE Suicide Prevention and Inspirational Talk for your School.
During this 50 minute talk Jeff engages in the conversation of mental health and suicide prevention talking about signs to be aware of and how you can intervene and how you can best intervene.
Jeff talks about the importance of relationships and what to do between someone in crisis having a thought and the person making a decision. The key in this moment is to deescalate the situation by bringing down the anxiety and heightened emotions in the moment. The worst thing to do is trigger further anxiety to the person in crisis which can produce an emotional reaction. Jeff talks about this moment and how best you can be that person that saves a life and gets the individual the critical help they need in these very important moments.
Youth Mental Health Motivational Speaker
For nearly three decades, Jeff Yalden has inspired school communities with his mental hydration, mental health awareness, and teen suicide prevention talks.
Here is a FREE 50 minute Teen Suicide Prevention Course for Schools. This is an inspirational talk from Jeff talking about how one person can save a person’s life by giving them hope and listening.
Learn how to ask and spot the signs of someone in crisis. This video is not intended to trigger thoughts or feelings, but to inspire the conversation, and to intervene when you notice red flags or suspect something isn’t right.
It’s FREE . . . (Click Here).
High School Motivational Speaker for Virtual Presentations
“Last night I prayed, “God, help me,” before getting into bed. My plan was to leave the dorm after my roommate was asleep. I fell asleep. When I woke up this morning, I went to class figuring I could try again tonight, but instead I came to your talk and I met you. Your story gave me hope, encouragement. I’m going to reach out to counseling office tonight. I can’t thank you enough for what you did. I think you were there for a reason and I’m glad you were.”– Friends for Life, Mike
Interested in Jeff speaking to your school community but concerned about the pandemic? No worries, Jeff does a lot of virtual presentations connecting right into your classrooms. Bring Jeff live for a conversation with your students and staff through zoom. Email Jeff today (Email).
Teen Suicide Book for Schools and Instruction
Jeff Yalden is the author of Teen Suicide: The WHY Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic (Click Here)
Getting Married in Myrtle BeachGetting married in Myrtle Beach and you want the perfect wedding officiant to make this day special. Well, look no further! Meet Jeff Yalden who can officiate your perfect wedding in the Myrtle Beach area and the state of South Carolina and/or can renew your vows. Let’s not worry on your wedding day. This is your big day. Let Reverend Jeffrey officiate your Myrtle Beach wedding. Message him today (Email).
About Reverend, JeffreyMeet Reverend Jeffrey, Officiant of Weddings in Myrtle Beach and the state of South Carolina. Jeff Yalden has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity Degree from Universal Life Church and the signature of the Chaplain. Reverend Jeffrey loves to serve and loves people.
Jeff Yalden Professional Speaker & Education ConsultantProfessionally, Jeff Yalden is a mental health and suicide prevention consultant for the past 30 years working with school communities and the military. You can find out more about Jeff Yalden by visiting www.JeffYalden.com.
Myrtle Beach Wedding OfficiantImagine the beautiful beaches, sunny skies, and there you are getting married! This is the perfect setting and what better place than sunny beautiful, Myrtle Beach. Reverend Jeffrey Yalden provides simple, affordable and a memorable Wedding Officiant for your Myrtle Beach Wedding services. Reverend Jeffrey can be your Wedding Officiant and Minister for your wedding day then he is available to perform your wedding ceremony and assist for your rehearsal. Reverend Jeffrey serves weddings at all the resorts and country club settings, including his favorite settings, beach weddings. Here are some of the venues that are most popular for Myrtle Beach Weddings . . . North Beach Plantation, Beach Cove Resort, Kingston Plantation – Embassy Suites, Brighton Towers, Hilton Resort, and Seawatch Resort, Grande Dunes Ocean Club, Grande Dunes Marina Inn, Grande Dunes Golf Club and Grande Dunes Marriott Resort, Island Vista Resort, Train Depot, Springmaid Beach Resort, Clarion Inn – Waterway, Holiday Inn Surfside Beach, Gulf Stream Café, Sunnyside Plantation, Wachesaw Plantation, Brookgreen Gardens, Litchfield Country Club, Litchfield Golf and Beach Club, Litchfield Planatation, Pawleys Island Chapel, Pawleys Plantation, Caledonia Golf Club, Heritage Club, Debordieu Golf Club and Beach Club. Other popular wedding venues we serve are Conway Riverwalk, Upper Mill Plantation, Thompson Farms, Wild Berry Farms and Hidden Acres. For more information, please contact Jeff today!
Virtual Leadership Presentation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of LouisianaInspiring the Future: Boys and Girls Club Staff Leaders This is a very special opportunity for me. I get to speak to those that lead the youth through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Louisiana and beyond. I think the Boys and Girls Clubs of America is an outstanding program that serves young people throughout America and gives them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have. Being a staff member and knowing how strong of an influence you have is really important, but sometimes it is forgotten. This position carries a lot of responsibility that should never be taken lightly. It’s everyday that you never know the seeds you’re planting. On this day, May 28, 2020, during a pandemic, I get to share my message about leadership and influence to the staff members who will be mentoring these youngsters. I am very excited and honored. Power Point Slides: Boys and Girls Club LA PDF for References, May 28, 2020 Presentation Jeff Yalden (Email) Website: (Click Here)
On Demand Life Courses for Youth & Adults (Click Here)
Books:BOOM Final Copy 28 Day Boot Camp for Teens Workbook Motivational Posters: Posters Motivational+PDF’s+2019 The Jeff Yalden Foundation: The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc. Donate FREE Link School Community Teen Suicide Prevention Course: https://jeffyaldenuniversity.clickfunnels.com/access32545464/9a6d8752c7c FREE Meditation Course: https://jeffyaldenuniversity.clickfunnels.com/optin1586289965594 Teen & Family Life Coach: https://jeffyalden.com/teen-life-coach/ Teen Suicide Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2M6QCB Best of Jeff Yalden Videos:
- TEDx Talk – https://youtu.be/nP_xXPvJctI
Tippicanoe Valley High School – https://youtu.be/rpfVjoYAgik
- Barnard, MO – https://youtu.be/KAKnjeFyRR0
- High School Speaker: (Click Here)
- High School Motivational Speaker Videos: (Click Here)
- Teen Mental Health & Suicide Prevention in High School: (Click Here)
- Teachers and Staff Speaker: (Click Here)
- Teacher Staff Development Playlist Videos: (Click Here)
- Teen Suicide Behaviors & Responding in Crisis: (Click Here)
- Why Teens Self-Harm: (Click Here)
- Reference Letters (Click Here)
- Jeff’s Brochure (Click Here)
Why You’re More Qualified in Suicide Prevention Than Most Mental Health Professionals
Yes, you just read that correctly. I’m Jeff Yalden and I’ve been working in Teen Suicide Prevention and Suicide Prevention – Teen Mental Health for nearly 30 years.
You’re about to read the lack of suicide prevention training our mental health professionals receive that is mandated or suicide prevention training our professionals are taking that is on their own time and money.
You’re about to understand how within minutes you, whether you’re a mental health professional, a parent, an educator, coach, pastor, or a friend can save the life of someone showing suicidal ideation.
Suicide Prevention in teens and adults isn’t rocket science when saving a life of an individual who is showing signs of suicidal ideation. In suicide prevention, what you do in the very early moments of crisis can save a life and prevent a forever decision.
For more suicide prevention training for your school community, click here!
Unqualified in America for Suicide Prevention, Yet Trusted with Suicidal Ideation Crisis Care
In February 2015, I spoke two days in a community that had 9 suicides in one year, including four in six weeks. Since my visit, they haven’t had a suicide.
“The Jeff Yalden legacy will live on in our community for years to come.” – Brett Boggs, Retired Superintendent, Akron, IN
We need more school based suicide prevention training for staff and students. (Click Here for more training).
Another day in a school community addressing students, staff, administration and meeting with counselors and having to do a suicide assessment of a teen only to send them to the emergency room to be evaluated by a medical professional who isn’t qualified. Another day where I am left disappointed, discouraged, but still hopeful. I will not give up on the broken system. I will not allow myself to cave into a system of professionals where I hear, “Jeff, I don’t know what to do!” If I do allow myself to accept this than I am as much a part of the problem as I am the solution and I can’t live with myself knowing that I gave up on people when for the past 30 years this has been my work and love.
Our Mental Health Professionals are overwhelmed and Receive Little Training in Suicide Prevention
Time and time again, I am working in a school as a youth mental health motivational speaker. After my talk, I work with the counselors to visit with students and sometimes staff members that want to talk. Sometimes (more often than you can imagine), a person comes with some serious suicidal ideation and sometimes homicidal ideation. The checklist is checked off and I’ve confirmed with the individual they are clearly at-risk of making the forever decision and knows they need help. I always want the individual person to take ownership and want help rather than forcing the need for help.
Most schools have a policy that if an individual is suicidal the parents or
guardians are called and asked to go to the emergency room or a 3rd party mental health professional and have a suicide assessment done before returning to school with a safety plan. I don’t like the word safety plan either. I prefer to call it a success plan.
This is not suicide prevention sending a student to the emergency room.
The issue with this is that when an individual leaves the hospital they’re not required to share with the school counselors or administration what the mental health professional (the person doing the assessment might not be trained in suicidal behaviors or risk of suicide), has given as far as a safety plan for the individual returning back to school.
If you’re a parent or individual and you are more concerned with your reputation than your wellbeing shame on you. This is nothing to be ashamed of and you being safe and a plan of action to follow is in your best interest and will be supported by those that really matter. Your school counselors, teachers, coaches, and administration are trusted and significant adults who can give you hope, support, and encouragement. They deserve to be trusted in what you need and together we can find resources that can help the person in need of care.
At the onset of the issue, remember, a person in crisis needs someone to listen to them without being overwhelmed, judgmental, and/or trying to solve the individual’s situation or emotions in that moment. Just deescalate the situation and give hope.
We can all do that by showing we care and because you know the individual and you intervened or they have come to you I believe you’re more qualified than a person with no mental health suicide prevention training. 58% of suicidal people have had no record of mental health care treatment or been given a diagnosis. So, it’s concerning to me to send the individual who is already scared to someone they don’t know who isn’t even qualified to make an assessment many schools or workplaces require.
Therapy: Why are Therapists rarely Trained in the Prevention of Suicide?
We are constantly telling parents that if your child is suicidal take them to a therapist and yet outside of psychiatrists, the majority of mental health professionals have very little to no formal training in how to effectively treat suicidal individuals.
Why is Suicide Prevention so Complicated?
If a parent or school counselor doesn’t have the answers we say, “See a therapist,” but our therapists (too many of them) don’t have the answers either and this isn’t fair when it comes to the well-being of the person we send off for an evaluation.
Every campaign around suicide prevention and mental health awareness says the same thing, “See a therapist.” Or, “Reach out and ask for help.”
While I don’t disagree with saying, “Talk to someone” and getting people struggling with mental health related emotions or suicidal ideation to speak up and ask for help, my greatest concern is comes with some basic questions that need to be answered in our communities:
Are we sending these individuals (now with more anxiety and fear) to people who aren’t qualified and are overwhelmed now depending on the depth of the situation of the person in front of them?
Are we providing the adequate care and support in our responsibility to refer to person to the right professionals?
Why don’t we have more training available?
Are we helping or hurting the individual?
Specific suicide prevention training is not commonly offered as part of college curriculums, optional post-graduate training on suicide is limited as well. This training is costly and time-consuming and really interested to people who’ve had experiences with suicidal ideation in their pasts or have been traumatized themselves. Furthermore, I’d say as much as many therapists aren’t aware that they themselves even need the education.
I was speaking on teen mental health and suicide prevention in West Fargo, North Dakota in December of 2019. Very tough audience and I ended up asking a question and one of the counselors said, “We already know this, why do we need to be here?” My audience was the school counselors, school psychologists, administrators, and school resource officers. I was dumbfounded by the question from a school counselor. More education to understand teen mental health is not something we should shy away from or be so ignorant to think we already know.
More concerning, after I left the community, I got a message from the local mortician who had attended my evening talk. At some point, during the evening after my talk, a local young man who had recently graduated made a forever decision. The next morning the mortician came to work having to deal with the reality of the conversation the night before and the reality of a school counselor saying, “We already know this . . .”
We Already Know This . . . Why Do We Need to Know More?
If we already know this we don’t know it well enough and we need to know more. We need to want to talk more about mental health awareness and getting people to feel more comfortable speaking up and talking about their feelings. We need to educate people on being okay not being okay, but not being okay and not talking about it isn’t okay.
You are not alone and shouldn’t be ashamed. You matter and what you are feeling right now is most likely temporary, but nobody can help if they don’t know you need it.
Don’t Treat Problems You Don’t Know
This is an ethical standard in any profession but also should be common sense to any person who cares and is compassionate towards others. You don’t treat problems you don’t know anything about. You ask for help and do your research, but ultimately find the answer and do the right thing.
But, what is the right thing when it comes to the lack of resources and trained professionals for people who are showing signs of being suicidal?
One of my mentors and trusted clinical psychologists I’ve learned and continue to learn from says, “Everyday thousands of untrained service providers see thousands of suicidal patients and perform uniformed interventions.”
If your son or daughter needed individual and personalized coaching for their chosen sport you wouldn’t trust in a random person opening a storefront that says, “Individualized Coaching for Your Students Athlete.” No, you’d probably want to read some reviews, references, make a few phone calls, etc.
Then why is it okay that we are not qualifying our service providers with their care for others?
Is it training? Is it insurance? Is it the stigma? What is it and why are we allowing this when teen suicide and teen mental health is an epidemic that needs attention and the right resources to help our communities?
Stop thinking that you are sending (someone who shows suicidal ideation) you care about to a therapist and because they’re a therapist, they’re skilled in how to address the risk of suicide. Nothing is farther from the truth and we could be making matters worse. Essentially, not helping but hurting the individual further.
In 2019, numbers of completed suicide had risen just slightly from the year before, but still statistics aren’t accurate because drug overdoses and accidental deaths; who says they weren’t suicide attempts. Nonetheless, since 1999, the suicide rate has climbed to a little more than 35%. This continues to be very concerning and deeply troubling especially to me when I work in consulting with school communities and mental health every day.
Finding a Therapist if you’re Suicidal
The training for mental health practitioners who treat suicidal patients – psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and others – is dangerously inadequate.
Combating suicide requires a holistic approach that includes the community, families, educators and our religious leaders all working together. The challenge is in society who has placed the burden of caring on suicidal people on a mental health workforce who is underprepared to help those in suicidal distress.
Mental health professionals have no national standards that require them to be trained in how to treat suicidal people. Whether it’s during their undergraduate work or during their career they are not required to get training or to be trained in suicide prevention. For the most part, they have to want to pursue training on their own or if they do get training it is limited and not consistent on a regular basis with more information and continued education credits.
Currently, only a handful of states mandate training in suicide assessment, treatment and management for health professionals, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Having someone on your side that gets what you’re going through, that can advocate for your needs, and that gives you the space to talk through your thoughts is a game-changer.
We have these trusted professionals within our communities. We have them within our schools. They’re called teachers, school counselors, coaches, parents, and friends. Peer to peer relationships matter. Relationships between adults and our children matter. Here is where it can be deescalated and hope given in the here and the now which puts time between a situation that triggers emotion and the possibility of a reaction on emotion that could be a suicide attempt or a suicide succeeding.
Within our schools, our trusted teachers, coaches, and counselors are more than qualified to listen and be a source of hope to the person who may be suicidal. But, if we quickly send the individual off to someone they don’t know we are making matters worse as anxiety increases and their unhealthy thoughts continue to think, “Nobody cares about me.” We can’t allow this to happen.
Teen Mental Health is Different Today Than Ever Before
Two questions need to be answered:
- Can I trust you?
- Do you care about me?
The American Psychological Association and the Council on Social Work Education, which accredit graduate programs in psychology and social work, have standards to prepare graduates to treat patients in crisis but do not require specific competencies regarding suicide. This needs to change and perhaps be more of a requirement, but then again, who is qualified to teach such a course if very few of our professionals are even qualified themselves?
A report from 2014 on guidelines to improve training among the clinical workforce, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention assessed the state of education by sending surveys to 443 academic institutions. Of those, 69 responded, and 70% said no specific training for suicide was provided.
Why out of 443 educational institutions did only 69 respond? Of the 69 that responded did 70% say they have no specific suicide prevention training is provided? Why is this acceptable? Who is stepping up to the plate in our schools across the country to say, this needs to change? This needs to be addressed and on my watch I am going to make sure our students, staff members, and families know we care about them all.
I am blaming it on us all because we are either part of the problem or we are part of the solution to a better world where we are safe and bringing up great leaders.
I work as a mental health motivational speaker and educator providing education and hope to school communities all over the world. I don’t get applause. In 30 years, I haven’t received a medal or a trophy for my work. Occasionally, I get the, “Oh, your work is so needed.” Or, “You must be so fulfilled knowing how much a difference you make.” Yeah, that is nice, but why can’t we all not be afraid to talk about our stories and to speak more openly about mental health? Why are we living with shame knowing that if people know we might be looked at differently and judged?
This is a conversation that needs to happen in every household in every community and every school district, but it shouldn’t have to be the full responsibility of our schools and the great adults that inspire our youth every day.
We need more parents parenting and being involved and invested in their kid’s lives and the family unit. We need less parents wanting to be friends with their kids. We have responsibilities as parents to raise our kids in a family that loves and unconditionally is supportive and caring for their needs.
Suicide Prevention: Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes
The American Association of Suicidology paper written in 2012 cited decades of studies that underscored the training gap in suicide prevention, and many experts say not much has changed in the last several years since this paper. Another concern not addressed and given more attention.
This paper stated that about half of psychology students receive formal classroom training on suicide during their graduate education. Only 25% of social workers receive any suicide prevention training. Marriage and family therapists had even less training. Most psychiatrists receive some instruction, but many experts agree it’s insufficient.
Talking about suicide shouldn’t be a difficult conversation and make a professional feel overwhelmed in the moment. Actually, this conversation is reducing the anxiety of the individual in distress because they’re talking and you the professional, you’re present and giving hope as you allow them to share what they’re feeling.
How you proceed from here is what concerns me and I am very concerned about how our schools have written policies and procedures for a student showing strong suicidal ideation.
Yesterday, I’m speaking at a school in Indiana. I’m with a school counselor counseling a senior who was 18 years old. This individual had every reason to be concerned including blacking out and being bloody, even from the night before. Scared to be alone. Every method of self-harm present on the daily including self-medicating, reckless behavior, banging head against the wall, cutting, and so much more.
As we called the parent after giving the student a choice; I said, “Either I have to call your father or the police, what do you want?”
Dad came in and we suggested what he should do, but no insurance.
At the end, I deferred it to the counselor because this was now a school policy issue. Can the student return to school with or without an assessment at this point? That was my question.
The counselor allowed the student to go with dad and nothing was going to prevent this student from returning tomorrow to school. No written note. No safety or success plan. Conversation had and off to go home to dad who this person stated was part of the problem they were having – abusive.
I had a talk with administration, head of guidance, and school resource officer after school. I had mentioned this is a gray area in school districts throughout the country. I said, “What do you think about this? What do you think you should do?” The head of guidance looked at me and said, “Jeff, I don’t know what to do.”
I am sorry, but you’re the head of guidance and you don’t know what to do is not acceptable and in my opinion if you’re over your head then you need to ask for help and put together a committee to assess the situation, rewrite the policies and procedures, and have a plan of action including what to do in the event of a student or staff suicide.
If you don’t do anything than nothing is going to change. Be the change and help give resources and support to your students and staff in need. That is our responsibility along with being mandated reporters.
School Safety Plans and Written Policies and Procedures for Suicide and Mental Health
There is a lot of talk about school shootings and what to do in the case of a shooting on campus. We have great security now with doors locked, visitors signing into our schools and providing their license, metal detectors, and more. We’ve done a great job protecting our schools, but we are failing on protecting our students and staff with mental illness.
If you are a school superintendent or building principal you have a responsibility to visit your students success manual and make sure you have written resources, policies and procedures that show your schools policy for mental health and suicide prevention. Not only the students and staff need to know what to do in the event of care or crisis, but also the parents need to be able to access this information.
This information needs to be accessible and easily found. It should be on the school website under resources, it should be given out in newsletters, and resources should be accessible in the main office, the counselors offices, the school resource officer, and the school nurse should all have copies they can share or email at moments notice.
Do not wait till after the fact where you end up having to do it out of necessity. Do it now and be proactive so that in the event, you can say you’ve done your best and continue to learn how to serve the wellbeing of your students.
This is a great responsibility to school administration and our elementary, middle schools, and high schools. This is also information that our colleges and universities should adhere to as well. As a matter of fact, I strongly believe that our state department of education in all 50 states around the country should mandate revised policies and procedures for all our schools with required mental health and suicide prevention training available for all staff and students annually.
Check out Jeff Yalden’s Suicide Prevention Course On-Demand for School Communities (Click Here).
Psychiatry and Suicide Prevention for Suicide Ideation
If you ask me, “Jeff, what should I say to a student, friend, family member in crisis?” My first response is to get this person to a trusted adult that they have a relationship with. Someone they trust and respect immediately. From here, let’s talk about professional help with your family doctor, therapist, counselor. Definitely take immediate action and take all signs seriously.”
You don’t want this person alone. In the moment of crisis you want to de-escalate the situation immediately. Put time between the thought and an action based on emotion.
Then, I’m concerned because I want to say, “Get to a psychiatrist as soon as you can.” But, I know that is usually a 4-6 month wait. We only have about 3700 psychiatrists in the country. Not nearly enough to address the mental health crisis our country is facing.
We only have about 3700 psychiatrists in the country. Not nearly enough to address the mental health crisis our country is facing.
I say a psychiatrist because they’re the only ones that are supposed to cover the topic of suicide during their training and course work.
Sending a person to a psychiatrist gives you some assurance that they know something about it, but you can’t say that for any other mental health professional and that is concerning to me when I am seeing the seriousness of mental health in our schools.
The burden that mental illness is placing on our educational system and our educators is too much and without proper training they’re over-whelmed and burnt out.
Advocating for a Person who is Suicidal
If you choose to wait the 4-6 months to get into a psychiatrist you are taking a calculated risk and are not putting the need for immediate attention to the matter. I highly recommend you don’t wait. Get on the list, call your family doctor, social worker, therapist, or whomever immediately and start the process. It’s the best thing to do in the moment and it’s working towards the care needed. Do everything you can to advocate for yourself, your child, your students, friends, family member, or neighbor.
Know this though, many of suicidal people have great experiences with therapy. Some of the therapy didn’t go well for one reason or another. While some therapy may have been lifesaving.
For those living with mental illness, therapy is like bathing, it should be routine and consistent. Maybe not as consistent as bathing, but depending on where the individual is it could be weekly, bi-monthly, and every two to three months when we know the once suicidal person is doing better and we trust they can do the work they’re required to do for their self-care and wellbeing.
“Having someone on your side that gets what you’re going through: feelings and thoughts, that can advocate for your needs, listen to your heart, and advise you without being judgmental and validating your feelings; someone that gives you the time and space to talk through what you are feeling and thinking is a total game-changer to the person in crisis.” This half-an-hour or hour can be what saves the life of a person that is suicidal.
Who is capable of giving a suicidal person this is any trusted adult, friend, teacher, counselor, school administrator, coach, or parents. As Doctor Phil says, “The most trusted adult in a child’s life is that same sex parent.” I agree, but to those young bloods that don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents, I believe any trusted adult in the child’s life can be that source of hope and support.
All these trusted adults that work in our schools need to know how to talk to a student in crisis or a student showing signs of suicide. Our teachers and any person hired by the school to work with students should also feel comfortable and capable in these moments of crisis.
Learning how to be this significant adult in a child’s life isn’t hard, but it’s not being mandated and the fear of addressing it because of the lack of training and knowledge makes today’s school administrators avoid rather than want to learn.
Be the voice and presence that shows a suicidal person they matter and you care.
Take Jeff’s Course on Teen Suicide Prevention . . . Available for all Staff, Teens, Coaches, and Support Personnel (Click Here)
How to Make a Suicidal Person Feel Less Suicidal
Contrary to what you might believe, most people living with suicidal thoughts say that when they found the right person or therapist, clinician or doctor, coach or teacher, someone who didn’t overreact and who made an honest effort to understand their pain, they felt less suicidal.
Less suicidal and the situation in the moment was de-escalated because this person sat down judgement free and listened in the space that made the person feel safe and heard. Before anything else matters, this is a moment that a suicidal person needs.
Whomever this person is, understand that they have their best interest at heart and cares more than just keeping you alive. This person, who probably knows the suicidal person whereas a therapist or emergency room doctor doesn’t, wants to help the person in crisis find a life worth living and to be there while they’re having trouble in the here and the now coping or problem solving though something they might think is the end of the world.
Be present. Be the light in the moment they feel so much darkness. Deescalate and listen with an open heart that shows you care and you want the best for this person.
I love working in education. I love our teachers, counselors, coaches, administrators and parents. I love speaking on mental health in schools and want every adult to know that you don’t need to be scared because you think you don’t know how to help. Know that the student in front of you doesn’t want to die either. They want a reason to live. They want to know they’re not alone and that someone cares as they share the burden or disappointment they feel.
Today’s youth especially, I strongly believe they don’t want to die. One of the issues I see is that today’s youth live so in the here and the now that when they have a problem they think it’s the end of the world. They see that the solution to their problem can’t be handled in the here and the now, but it might take time; days, weeks, months, or maybe this has ruined their life.
Life is not in the here and the now. Mistakes happen. It’s how we grow. Our youth need to know that perfection doesn’t exist and it takes courage to make a mistake and regroup. We grow from our mistakes and what we go through. Nothing is the end of the world.
Parents, teachers, educators, counselors, coaches and youth pastors are more than capable and qualified to help a person who may be suicidal, but know that you still have a responsibility not to leave the person alone, but to know what you should do now. It’s not over and you don’t want to leave the person alone.
A Suicidal Situation De-Escalated What Now
Breathe and know you did a great job and possibly saved a life. Also, let the individual know you are proud of them because it took a lot of courage to share and talk.
If it’s a child the parents need to be contacted and suggest resources of mental health professional care from this point forward. Work with your school counselors to have a success plan and get this student on the school radar where they’ll have support and care.
If it’s an adult contact the immediate family or significant other. Same thing, have resources available and encourage them to follow through for the best interest of the person in distress.
90% of the underlying factors to someone who is suicidal and showing suicidal behavior is mental illness. This mental illness comes in the form of anxiety, stress, overwhelmed, too high of expectations, coping, problem solving skills, depression, bi-polar, or something else that may have or even has been diagnosed.
You can always go to the emergency room or call 911. You can always call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-248-2781 or Text 741741. These are definitely places to turn to, but know that in the moment, YOU knowing the person eases their anxiety and calms them down and the sacrifice on you is just time and patience. You have a better chance in the initial moments and if you’re feeling over-whelmed contact someone immediately for help and/or you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline with the person. Just don’t react. Don’t leave the person. You being there and showing you care and your calming presence does more than you can imagine. I believe in you and the value you can bring to this moment.
Therapists are Lost when it comes to Suicide and Prevention
Imagine this for a moment, a suicidal person meets a therapist and what do you think they’re expecting? They’re expecting the person sitting across from them wants to understand their suffering. That is not the case, at all.
A more common feeling amongst therapists, counselors, and trusted adults is the moment they realize their sitting with a suicidal person is panic and they go from fight to flight themselves.
Now the panic is that the individual might try to kill themselves and could succeed and would they get sued or as a therapist maybe lose their license. The go-to all too often is to send the suicidal person to the emergency room.
You have this person who has come to you, but more than likely doesn’t want to die, but they don’t know what else to do and they’re desperate for help. Perhaps it’s taken days, weeks, months, or even years to have the courage to ask for help from a professional or someone and now this professional is saying, “I can’t help you. You have to go somewhere else. Like the emergency room.”
That can be very harmful and discourage the suicidal person further and give up.
Mental Health: Emergency Rooms and Involuntary Hospitalizations
Research shows that sending the individual to the emergency room or involuntary hospitalizations – triggered when a mental health professional believes someone is at imminent risk of killing themselves – can increase a person’s risk of suicide.
Here is where I want to encourage you to hold off and prioritize time and patience first. Then, focus on de-escalating the feelings and thoughts, and be able to get to a comfortable conversation where you can listen and offer support.
Here is where I am always successful depending on the severity of the situation. In the case of where I know the person needs a mental health assessment and probably a time out and a psychiatrist, I follow protocol, and I hate this because I know what happens. However, the point I want to stress is that I always communicate openly and honestly with the individual because if I am expecting them to trust me I need to be very open and honest in what is going to happen. I explain that this is what is right and in their best interest and I talk to them until they are on board and agree with what I am suggesting.
I do all of this after I have deescalated the situation and calmed them down a lot.
When the individual can have ownership and agree to the professional and mental health care they will take it more seriously, be honest, and be more willing to do the work. I never fail when I go this route. During this process, I am with them and sit with the person while parents are called and explain it through. If it’s a student who has a boyfriend or girlfriend or a really close friend, I will sometimes (with permission) bring the friend down so the person has their supportive friend with them. They never want to be alone. Remember, being alone feels to them they don’t have meaningful relationships and this support can be of incredible importance in their success through their care and afterwards.
Any person sent to the emergency room against their will and has psychiatric disabilities or mental illness, having had trauma, or is in crisis, this can be a trigger that could be the straw that breaks the camels back.
The emergency room can be the worst place for a person who is suicidal.
The emergency room is loud, patients are hurried in and pushed out with little to zero emotional support and maybe care.
There is no training, for the most part, for the emergency doctors, or the nurses to help a person showing suicidal ideation and having a plan.
Can you imagine?
But this is where we are sending our people in great distress.
It’s like, “I don’t know what to do so let’s send them to the hospital where it’s better than my help, because I don’t know what to do and I’m panicking.”
You don’t send your car to someone who isn’t a mechanic. You don’t get a manicure or pedicure from a foot doctor who knows how to measure your feet for orthotics. We don’t bring our dogs to people who specialize in cats. We don’t make fancy dinner reservations at a breakfast joint, right? Come on, man.
The Suicidal Person Needs Two Questions Answered
Do you care and are you showing it? Great. Don’t panic and react. You are meeting the individual where they expect you to be even if you are not qualified.
Can I trust you and are you giving the time the individual needs to calm down and get help?
Great job. Breathe. You’ve done good. Now, we can move forward in a calm manner.
Look, even if the therapist doesn’t panic or over-react, that doesn’t mean they know what to do next or how to help.
I remember once, I was working with a school therapist hired by the school at $500 a day – four days a week. Yes, you read that correctly.
While working with a student who had suicidal ideation this therapist made the student “promise” that he/she would never do anything to hurt herself.
That in principle is great, but if it were that easy the person wouldn’t be coming forward asking for help.
As the very last resort, the very last resort, you can make the person sign a document that you both create, like a contract, that says, “I will be here tomorrow. I will not make any decisions based on emotions. I will make the phone call (lists phone numbers) if I feel unsafe.”
At the very last resort you can do this. Exhaust everything before this becomes the go-to.
Remember, you are de-escalating the situation with someone you know more than any mental health professional who isn’t trained in suicide prevention who will probably do something that is worse than your kind heart and caring soul.
Don’t Kill Yourself, but WHY does the Individual Want to Die in the First Place
Don’t react to them wanting to kill themselves. Try finding out why they might want to die first.
In all my suicide prevention training in schools, I find our educators avoid the conversation and question of suicide all together. I also find with therapists and counselors the same thing.
Ever notice that when suicide is mentioned or mental health is being talked about the conversation gets really quiet? Yeah, because of the stigma and shame associated with the topic of mental health or suicide. Let’s change it and change it immediately. These conversations can be uplifting and doesn’t need to be talked about with shame.
I ask in my suicide prevention training programs in schools what the fear is about asking a student if they’re thinking about suicide. I come straight out and ask everyone. The most common answer is, “I’m not qualified to help them.” Or, they say, “If I ask them and they say, ‘Yes. What do I do then?”
Imagine this, many therapists have dropped clients who’ve been suicidal in the past because they’ve felt they were unable to tolerate the intensity of their pain and desire to want to die. Pretty concerning. Again, the time it had taken to reach out and ask for help and then they’re being dropped.
Some advice after 30 years of working with students and schools and addressing mental health and suicide in teens is that you can be compassionate and empathetic, but you can’t carry their darkness. Be present and engaged and show your love and support, but at the end of the day, you have to not carry the burden of this all being on you and you being responsible for them staying alive.
Another problem with mental health professionals and therapists is they’re so fixated on trying to predict how likely the individual is to kill themselves that they’re not present and listening as they should be. We’ve got to commit to spending the necessary time, patience, and listening to why they are hurt or feeling the way they’re feeling. Listen to what they’re asking. Listen to what they need.
A person who is suicidal is trying to share the depth of the pain in their heart – the depth of their despair.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re suicidal. It could mean they don’t see a way out or that they have to take this situation one day at a time. Let them know it will be okay and this is not the end of the world. Patience in the process. Perfection doesn’t exist.
We waste too much time trying to stop the person from killing themselves instead of finding ways to understand why they might want to die in the first place.
Do You Want to DIE?
That’s the question that tells you what you need to know, but too many people aren’t just afraid to ask this question, THE DON’T KNOW HOW TO ASK THE QUESTION.
I’ve visited and worked with more schools than I can count that have hired me after a suicide or multiple suicides.
One of the first things I want to know from a teen suicide is what they’re doing at the school in terms of suicide prevention or mental health awareness for their students and staff. Most of the time, I hear, “Well, that’s why you’re here. We need to start having the conversation.”
What I know is that we are a society of people who don’t know how to treat people who are suicidal. We don’t know how to ask the suicide question and we are afraid to ask.
When I do my teacher suicide prevention training and talk teen mental health I’m very proud of not having had one suicide after my visits to these school communities.
I praise and validate the importance of teacher and student relationships, school culture and climate, and giving these adults the tools to address their students who might show signs of distress and how to intervene on their level and to answer the questions that their students are struggling to even understand themselves.
Remember, you’re a teacher, a coach, parent, aunt, uncle, school nurse, or whatever you do. You are a good person. You are good-hearted and you’d be crushed if one of your students ended their life and you’d look back saying, “If I only knew, I could have said something.” Remember, you can’t carry the burden. Also, how are you supposed to know the individual was hurting if they’re not willing to talk and share?
Start the conversation before the crisis happens. It’s imperative our school communities start addressing teen mental health more openly and regularly.
Every day is an opportunity to say something meaningful and impactful. Let’s not wait to when we feel they need to hear our words.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were all kind and showed love to everyone each and every day? It’s the smiles, gestures, and the kind words that make a difference. It’s being compassionate, nonjudgmental, present, engaging, and seeing the best in others that makes a difference.
I’m not concerned with you assessing the situation and managing the risk in front of you. I just want you to know you are more than qualified to show your heart to someone else and let them know they matter while putting time between the now and what could be a forever decision.
Visit Jeff Yalden’s On-Demand Suicide Prevention Course for School Communities (Click Here)
This is a Teen Suicide Prevention On-Demand Course for all school staff and even teens that should be mandatory in every school. When we are not pro-active we become forced to be reactive and if you haven’t lost a student to suicide you don’t want to have to go through that.
The Big Picture of Suicide in America
Mental health professionals see suicidal patients throughout their careers and some very often, yet so few mental health professionals seek specialized training on suicide prevention.
If mental health professionals do want training it can be hard to come by especially if you live in rural North America, but I don’t agree that is the case. Some of the best therapies aren’t available for training in small groups, and those that are, require a lot of time and money. That prevents many from getting more education around suicide prevention. Again, I think that is an excuse and the lazy way to look at it.
With the technology we have today, education is basically free. Let’s not confuse memory with intelligence. You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know.
If you really cared and wanted to educate yourself to be more of a source of help for your clients or students you can make a commitment to educate yourself by reading books, taking courses, google, and YouTube. With a little motivation you can invest in learning more without paying for it and waiting for training to come around.
Suicide Prevention isn’t mandatory for our professionals and I find that very sad and disturbing.
One of the most effective approaches to treating suicidal patients, CAMS – Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality, says that in the absence of training, many clinicians spend most of their time trying to treat a patient’s underlying mental illness, rather than asking the person, “What makes you want to kill yourself?”
A teenager for example, why are we diagnosing teens when their brain isn’t fully developed and given all the hormonal, emotional, psychological, and physical changes; and social media today with overwhelmed feelings, expectations, and so much more; don’t you think it’s better to treat the symptoms and not look for the causes right now?
Get to know the individual and listen to their heart.
The two questions our youth ask today is:
- Can I trust you?
- Do you care about me?
They don’t come home from a long day and say, “Mom and dad, can we talk?” No. They come in the house get to their room as fast as possible and continue to isolate themselves where they’re comfortable and they only wish you’d come through the doors asking, “Honey, how was your day?”, being nonjudgmental and present.
Suicide Prevention Data from Center Disease Control and Prevention
In 2018, Center Disease Control and Prevention published data stating 54% of people who died by suicide had no known mental health condition.
Too many people are living with mental illness but not doing anything about it. Is it the stigma? Is it the shame and embarrassment? Is it being stubborn? Could it be the lack of resources available or the length it takes to get an appointment? Or, it’s the lack of trust in mental health and the feeling that we’re over medicating people? It’s all this and more, but regardless if you are going to live a healthy life living with mental illness you have to be your best advocate.
It starts with acknowledging the fact that you have a mental health condition you have to accept and choose to educate yourself. Don’t be the victim. Choose to be the victor. Don’t be bitter. Choose to be better.
What I am saying is very few people are trained to understand the depth of people’s individual suffering and with lack of knowledge and the ability to reach people where they are with patience and non-judgement is a major problem we need addressed.
Mental Health Specialized Suicide Prevention Training Impacting your Well-Being
Most people don’t get that specialized training is important to your well-being as a practitioner and without specialized training helping your clients or students can significantly impact your own mental well-being crippling you and sending you on a leave of absence or a change of job profession.
I can’t begin to tell you how many teachers, counselors, school administrators, school psychologists are no longer in the educational field working with students anymore because of the second-hand trauma. Too many to tell and many of these people I am still in touch with today.
Counseling clients and students has to be done with compassion and empathy, but to not be carrying the burden of their feelings, thoughts, emotions.
You can’t own what they’re going through, but you can listen, support, and give hope by giving tools to cope and problem solve. You can support them on the brokenness they’re living with and how one day at a time they’re willingness to do the work themselves will help them come from where they are to where they need to be.
Ultimately, they have to do the work with the help of you and more professional help.
How Therapists are Hurting Their Clients and our Youth
Every day I hear how therapists are frightened of treating clients with suicidal ideation. They’re screening patients who they think are highly at risk because they don’t want to treat them. They’re scared and don’t want to carry the burden or the liability themselves.
Clinicians are also afraid of the liability, but the concern is far less real than most mental health professionals think.
Personally, I think if you are more concerned about the liability than you’re probably not in the right profession and really concerned about the mental well-being of clients who are trusting in you and your profession. Only you can answer that question.
If a family who is grieving the loss of a family member or their child brings about a lawsuit, most cases bringing a lawsuit against you are not successful. Facts are not always persuasive when the undesired outcome feels so catastrophic.
In the state of Colorado (which has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation) a mental health survey showed many do not think they need more training, but desire it, according to a 2018 article in the Journal of Public Health Policy.
It found providers reported being “generally pleased with their existing training and felt prepared to address suicide within their practice,” though 80% supported mandating suicide-related continuing education.
Continued Educational Training for Suicide Prevention Helps Therapists Care for Their Patients and Themselves
Too many therapists feel the overwhelming pressure when confronted with the immense amount of pain a suicidal person is feeling – wanting to help; but fearing they’re not capable.
In this moment between you the professional, teacher, parents, or clinician and the client think:
- The suicidal person is safe in this space and you are their light
- Breathe and be present
- Between their high emotions and taking action is time and what is important is you are putting space between them thinking and acting slowly reducing their anxiety and deescalating their emotions.
- Gain their trust and let them know and trust that you care.
You’ve just won and perhaps saved a life.
From here. Follow protocol and follow through.
With continued education you will constantly be taught new tools you can use, methods of deescalating the crisis situation, and gaining control of the situation.
Although you might think you know how to respond, continued training can always teach you more and reiterate what you already know validating your work.
Don’t discount the emotional pain this takes. No matter how professional and prepared you are with experience, remember, you’re a therapist because you’re emotionally sensitive and have a great ability to connect with people. Add the training to be even more of a sensitive person and now you’re put in a room with someone who has the kind of pain and despair and shows behaviors that put them at great risk of dying by suicide and it’s easy to lose your bearing.
Any training provided or training you get on your own only benefits you and your clients.
Suicide Prevention Training and Continued Education
Talking suicide and addressing suicide risk is not something that is a one and done kind of training.
This is such a difficult conversation emotionally with serious consequences that people are going to feel unprepared and ill-equipped if they are not engaged in an ongoing way.
Our schools are starting to do a great job of mandating suicide prevention in our schools, but they’re far from where they need to be. Once a year training isn’t going to solve and save lives. This conversation, training, and continued support should be at least once a quarter made mandatory for every person who works with teens.
Unless you yourself seek out your own specialized training and continued education, and most people do not get this or take it upon themselves, it will become painful for you and impact your well-being. I see it happening every day and it ends up ruining lives, careers, families, and takes time to come back from this trauma.
Consultation Team Managing Stress and Burnout
Another highly effective treatment approach for severe suicide risk is Dialectical Behavior Therapy and with this treatment approach there is a consultation team to help manage the stress and burnout of the therapists.
Why do we not have these consultation group meetings in all our professionals where people manage people having traumatic experiences or living with mental illness and suicidal ideation.
I believe this approach should be mandatory for all mental health professionals and mandated for law enforcement, our military, churches, first responders, firefighters, doctors and nurses, and school personnel.
We need to start talking and sharing our feelings so we can help one another with the traumatic experiences being dealt with day in and day out. Until the stigma is silenced and people start talking we are going to continue to see no improvement in our communities.
Personally, having dealt with school communities and teaching suicide prevention, and watched suicides happen, having someone to talk to is invaluable to my continued success working with teen suicide and helping our school communities save lives and helping after a suicide.
Having someone to talk to is a crucial part of one’s self-care. As therapists we need to heed our own advice. Take care of yourself first. Self-care. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. Self-care is not selfish. You matter and your mental health hydration matters.
This work can be very isolating and lonely. Being able to hear from others and relate with their experiences can be so helpful and so healing in ways that exercise or date night can’t give you.
A System Broken – Nobody Cares
For years and years the system is broken and inadequate training has long been documented but nobody is changing the system or putting efforts where efforts are most needed.
We need to take teen suicide prevention and mental health more seriously in America and our schools.
Our government is putting millions of dollars towards the suicide prevention, mental health and the opioid epidemic, but who’s accounting for the money and making sure it is used effectively?
I believe that the money is giving a lot of people jobs with titles and cushy comfortable desks, chairs, and a nice corner office with a paycheck, but few people are on the ground doing the work. Too much delegating and forming of committees, but nobody doing the work we talk about in the meetings. Very sad. I see that everyone has the answers, but nobody wants to do the work.
Let’s stop all the talking and meetings and start implementing plans, procedures, policies, and trainings. Stepping up the suicide prevention game should be a priority for our government.
In my early days when I was just learning and starting my focus on mental health the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention said that it was critical that “mental health personnel receive appropriate graduate school training on the suicide while preparing for their professions.” This was back in 2001.
Twenty years later, experts say that not enough has changed. Not enough has changed and while we watch the suicide epidemic continue to grow we are still saying, “What are we doing?”
The answer is simple.
We are doing a lot of blaming and not enough talking and taking action.
Suicide Prevention Conversations Start at Home
It starts at home. Parents should not be diagnosing their children. Parents need to take all signs seriously and educate themselves on teen suicide prevention and mental health. This includes the dopamine effect from screen time, social media, and too much time in isolation.
It’s also in our schools. We need more teen suicide prevention and mental health support in our schools and also improve the relationships between our schools and our families. We’ve got to work together for the best interest of one another.
Our family doctors are not mental health therapists or teen suicide prevention physicians and shouldn’t be diagnosing or prescribing medication (long – term) for their patients. A family doctor could treat the symptoms for seven to thirty days, but make it clear that a mental health therapist and/or psychiatrist is essential to the wellbeing of the child. If you don’t believe in therapy or counseling, medication and such, also educate yourself on natural remedies such as exercise, nature, food, essential oils, meditation and being involved.
Therapy and medication is a game changer. Taken together is best. If it’s one or the other, therapy gives you tools to cope and problem solve while medication puts a band-aid on the illness.
Then, it’s the individual who does the work for themselves. Continued education on Teen Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, exercise, daily practice of self-care, learning mindfulness, breathing, and relaxing techniques to help you through your own emotions. Again, put time between the thought and the action is most crucial in the moment of crisis.
It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to not be okay and not do anything about it.
We can blame it on the system or we can take it upon ourselves. To blame it on the system solves nothing. To take responsibility and advocating for yourself, your family, your school is being responsible and you’re more likely to get something done and working. It takes a combined effort.
How We Can All Support Mental Health
Be open to talking more and engaging in conversation about suicide prevention and teen mental health. Continued education for your school and community is very important and will save lives.
The American Association of Suicidology has a report on gaps in mental health training and suicide prevention. They’ve made several recommendations for improving care. This is good and must be followed through state by state.
The report states that accrediting organizations must include suicide-specific education as part of their requirements so graduate programs have the training in their curriculum.
Also, state licensing boards, must require clinicians be competent in suicide treatment.
And the report also says government has a role to play by requiring that health care systems receiving state or federal funds ensure their mental health professionals are trained in suicide risk detection, assessment, treatment and prevention.
Other experts also say clinicians have to overcome their fear of not knowing who may live or die. Who is going to live or die shouldn’t be the thought in the middle of the open room where you are being trusted by this person asking for help. Be present and focus on the individual in front on you. Focus on deescalating the emotion and calming the situation. Create a plan of action and move forward. When this is our primary concern and before they leave your office you’ll know they’re feeling better and we can only pray they’ve been giving the tools, even if it’s only temporary, that they’ll take it one day at a time, but that they’ll also continue to seek help and receive treatment weekly.
As in all cases, if they’re in the middle of an emotional breakdown and considering suicide, make sure they have a Safety Plan such as 911 or go to the Emergency Room. They can call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.
The Crisis Text Line also provides free 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.
There is great responsibility and I understand. You’re worried about your livelihood and your family, your license, and more. However, we have a responsibility to protect the person and give them what they need and that is your professional experience and training. We have to be able to see past the risk to do what is right for our patients and students.
Finding a Therapist with Suicide Prevention Specific Training
Look for a therapist who specializes in evidence-based suicide prevention techniques such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Suicide Prevention or Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality.
I know you’ll be have a tough time finding this person who is specialized, but if you do, it’s a good lead for you. Not everyone who is trained is listed and not everyone who is listed is currently trained and up to date.
In certain cases of suicidal risk, being informed versus uninformed therapy can be the difference maker in saving a life or a death by suicide for someone who cannot bear their suffering any further. Job specific training is critical.
A well-intended and competent therapist who does not know how to effectively treat a suicidal person can result in the most tragic mental treatment outcome possible.
Finding a Psychiatrist and Make an Appointment Quickly
The profession of psychiatry (depending on where they go to school) requires psychology students receive formal education training on suicide during their graduate education.
The actual research shows that only half of psychology students receive this training.
Only about 25% of social workers receive any suicide prevention training.
Marriage and family therapists get even less suicide prevention training.
The exception is psychiatrists, most of whom get some instruction on suicide prevention.
Think about this . . . Suicide Prevention ten years ago is very different than suicide prevention today and with our youth.
“I’m Suicidal!” What should I do?
If you’re a patient, and you are suicidal, consider not saying so right away.
Here is why. The word ‘suicide’ can scare off a therapist even if they hear the word ‘suicide.’ Especially if they haven’t had adequate training to properly assess for risk, so they rush to involuntary hospitalization which in some cases make matters worse.
Research shows involuntary hospitalizations — triggered when a mental health professional or counselor believes someone is at imminent risk of killing themselves — can increase suicide risk.
When seeking a therapist who specializes in suicide here is some advice that can help you. When talking about suicidal thoughts always talk in the past tense, even if you’re currently living with them.
Here is an example:
- I’ve had suicidal thoughts in the past and I want to know how you approach that?
- What could I feel safe sharing?
- When do I need to worry you’re going to involuntarily commit me?
Slowly ease into full disclosure when you trust that you are safe with this therapist or counselor. I would also highly encourage these questions be asked during during a phone consultation or initial session.
Here is an example:
- “How would you handle it if someone disclosed suicidal thoughts during a session?”
- “What training have you had in working with self-harm?”
- “What are your thoughts about someone who dies by suicide?”
Having an initial session is for the therapist and also the client. The therapist
if the work is within their competency, and for the client to decide if that therapist is a good fit for them.
Even if someone doesn’t have suicide-specific training, it could still be a good fit.
It’s about the quality of the relationship that matters. It about a connection of trust, nonjudgment, and rapport.
Find a Buddy
Looking for a qualified therapist (suicide prevention) during a time when you’re suffering can be a significant emotional burden. Experts say it’s best if someone who cares about you is also part of the process, so you don’t have to navigate it alone.
If you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts: Make a Safety Plan
Choosing a therapist is a privilege many suicidal people don’t have. Some suicidal people can’t afford help. Many live in rural communities where there’s a limited amount of practitioners, or long wait lists for care.
If you don’t have access to the care you want right now, there is still help available:
- You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.
- The Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness has support groups for people living with mental illness.
Mental Health Speaker & Suicide Prevention Expert, Jeff Yalden
On February 26, 1992 at 0738 in the morning, Jeff Yalden was witness to a Marine suicide while stationed at Cecil Field Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL.
This moment changed Jeff’s life. Thirty years later, Jeff Yalden is one of the leading experts on Teen Suicide, Suicide Prevention, and Suicide Prevention Training and Mental Health Speakers in the world.
Jeff is also the founder and executive director of The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc. (Click Here). The Jeff Yalden Foundation is a non-profit 501c3 organization that focuses on Teen Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in School Communities.
Jeff is also renowned as a teen mental health motivational speaker and mental health speaker. He speaks to teens, teachers, parents, and mental health professionals on teen motivation and mental health and mental wellness.
Personally, Jeff lives in Myrtle Beach, SC and loves the beaches, boating, yoga, and being in his Wood Shop, Wood Times. He’s a 200YTT Certified Yoga Teacher.
Contact Jeff if you’re interested in Jeff visiting your school community and speaking or doing a Teacher Staff Development Talk. Whether it is LIVE or on ZOOM, Jeff is always engaged and fun to listen to.