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)
Thank you for having me speak to day.
Here are some references for you all:
The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc. – Please Consider a Donation
- The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc., a 501c3 Non-Profit Foundation for Teen Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. (Click Here)
The Daily Motivation from Jeff Yalden (Subscription Based but FREE to join the mailing list)
- Power Point Slides: May 8, 2020 Presentation (PDF Rochester Communities PowerPoint)
Jeff Yalden (Email)
Website: (Click Here)
Motivational Posters: Posters Motivational+PDF’s+2019
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)
Visit Jeff Yalden University for More Courses for Teens and Families (Click Here)
As a Youth Motivational Speaker & Coach, Jeff Hears Their Cries
Why Teens want to speak to Jeff Yalden
- They’re afraid you’re going to try and fix it
- They’re afraid you’re going to judge them
- You’re going to tell them they’re overreacting
- You don’t understand the pressure of being a teen
- You’re not going to take them seriously
- They’re afraid of being a burden
- They can’t figure out how they’re feeling themselves
- They feel you won’t value their feelings, thoughts, and emotions
Teens don’t trust adultsSounds crazy, but it’s true and that is why they’re not reaching out to their trusted adults. Ask many teens who their trusted adult is and they’ll tell you they don’t have one. Scared, isolated, and teens feel alone and a disappointment. They’re not speaking because they are afraid to burden their closest adults with their problems. They know how stressful life is for you that they don’t want to overwhelm you with their problems.
“I wanted to say “Thank You” for letting me thing that I do belong here and I am special. I am loved and that I don’t need to end it all to get what I want.I will never forget everything you said to everyone.” – Student, OH
Two Questions Teens Need Answered
- Can I trust you?
- Do you care about me?
Teen Pressures are Overwhelming
Teen Suicide: Is your Teen Next?
Two Reasons Teens Want to End Their LivesThere are two specific reasons teens start thinking about wanting to end their lives.
- They feel alone
- They feel they’re a disappointment
Teens are in a Vulnerable and Emotional State
Teens in Therapy
13 Reasons why a Teen Mental Health Life Coach is Right for Your Teen
1. Social Media and Teens:
2.Mandated Testing in Schools:
3. Bullying and Cyberbullying
4. Divorce and Family Issues
5. Peer Pressure
6. Sexual abuse
7. Alcohol and Drugs: Self-Medicating
8. The Maturity of a Teen’s Brain
9. Teens Don’t Like Talking to Adults
10. Drama . . . Drama . . . Drama
11. The Future Decisions
12. The feelings of being Alone and a Disappointment
13. They’re Influences such as Television and the Internet
You Matter . . . IT Doesn’t
I got on ZOOM about five minutes before our time of 12:00pm, April 1, 2020. No, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke. By the way, I don’t like April Fools’ jokes. I was excited to speak with fellow author, speaker and educator Bobby Petrocelli. I asked him to tell me a couple of things on his heart that he might want to talk about that day.
Bobby Petrocelli is passionate and wise, and I knew I’d have questions.
Right away, Bobby mentioned his book, YOU MATTER . . . IT DOESN’T. He told me he wanted to talk about the WHY behind the IT. I knew where he was going with this because it’s right up my alley. I composed myself and started with a prayer…
A Talk Show is BORN!
During my interview with Petrocelli, it dawned on me that I needed to do a YouTube channel dedicated to inspiring conversations, and here we are. Just like that, the show is created. Now I just need to figure out how to make a YouTube talk show.
This is a good time to figure it out, because nothing much is happening, and I have time. The COVID-19 pandemic has us all struggling with social isolation. Schools are closed, many people are out of work and obviously my speaking schedule is on hold.
It’s during times like this where you have time to create new ideas that might take off. We can choose victim or victor, right? I love Bobby Petrocelli. He’s a great man and an amazing speaker. We’ve known each other for many years. When I get a chance to interview him, I get excited. He’s inspiring and knowledgeable. He’s a man of God and cares about youth and families. He cares about people.
Find out more about Bobby HERE.
IT HAPPENED . . .
What is IT?
The IT represents the result of something. Bobby talked about his wife being killed by a drunk driver when he was 24 years old. The IT is his wife was killed by a drunk driver. The WHY is what we don’t often talk about. Among other things, the IT leaves us angry, hurt, resentful, and broken. We end up going through life carrying this feeling because we don’t move past IT.
WHY did IT Happen?
The WHY is behind the IT and gives us the answers we are looking for so we can move forward and cope with whatever happened. The WHY takes us on a journey to understand what needs to be understood. If we don’t ask questions, we are never healed through whatever pain we are going through. IT happened and we can’t change it, but we can change how we grow, cope, and move forward in a healthy way. For Bobby, he was prepared as much as anyone can prepare for something tragic like this. He said, “If we don’t ask the WHY then IT will dominate your life,” and he wasn’t going to let that happen. Bobby is a man of faith – a strong man of God. Right away he right away talked about forgiveness…
He didn’t say that he condones wrongdoing.
Forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving. He knew that he had to forgive this man who was two times the legal limit, driving while intoxicated when his wife was killed. Forgiveness was his first step in recovery. Amazing! He was 24 years old and he knew he had to forgive, when most people would have been angry at the world.
I asked him about this.
“I had been prepared for something like this,” he said. I’m not exactly sure what Bobby meant, because who can prepare for something so tragic – but I knew it was his faith in God. It was also his ability to have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset – even at 24. I’m telling you; Bobby Petrocelli is an inspirational man.
Is What You’re Being Asked to do IMPOSSIBLE?
The above question is something Bobby asks his audiences.
“You have it, whatever it is, so let’s build on it,” he said.
Bobby talked about how we have what it takes so let’s learn. Let’s be open to learning and engage in the process every day. I was thinking, don’t be the victim, be the victor. We have a lot in common, but he’s so much better at speaking about it.
You’re never asked to do anything impossible. You can choose to walk away, or you can choose to saddle up and figure it out.
Petrocelli: 10 Seconds
IT happened, but Bobby was not going to fold.
10 Seconds got him through this.
“It’s not one day at a time, like so many people say. For me, I couldn’t think of the next five minutes. I had to break it down to 10 Seconds. For me it was 10 Seconds at a time.”
I was at my worst at 16 and again at 22. I can still remember those days.
At 16, I wasn’t listening to anyone. I had a fixed mindset. At 22, I knew a little better and was very close to my grandparents. My grandmother used to say to me, “Jeff, take it one meal at a time. After dinner, go to bed, and just wake up for breakfast.”
That was my 10 Seconds at a time. The thing here that I want to make clear is that it’s not that things get better with time, but it’s what you do with that time where things get better. Sometimes, it’s just putting space between a thought and an action. It’s being grounded, present in the moment, breathing and just knowing that it will be okay.
Success: Patterns, Habits, and Routines
Nobody is better than anyone else, but some people have a routine and they’re driven. They wake up on time because they go to bed at a set time. They don’t waste hours on their smartphones, doing things that don’t matter. Successful people have a purpose. Their IT is their success. They’ve created patterns, habits and a routine to accomplish the goals they’ve set for themselves.
What is the WHY? That differs from person to person, but one thing is certain: Everyone has been knocked down in life. You have a choice at this point. You can stay knocked down or you can get back up.
Bobby got back up. He knew he needed some things in his life to be right in order for him to cope through his loss.
You are a result of your patterns, habits and routines – your attitude, friends, and commitment to a GROWTH MINDSET.
Your Friends are The ROOTS, LEAVES, or the BRANCHES
I got chills when Bobby started talking about Tyler Perry’s Madea – Let Them Go.
I love this skit and it is so right. Your friends are either the roots, the leaves, or the branches. Watch the video and understand this analogy. So true.
What Works For You
The first thing to do is to engage in the process. Choose a growth mindset. Don’t be a victim. Go from IT happened to understanding WHY it happened. Then, it’s HOW CAN I . . .? How can I be better at this or that? What can I do to be can I be a better person? How can I move forward with love, compassion, forgiveness, and be healthier? It’s about being present in moments. Now. Not yesterday or tomorrow. Not even in five minutes, but here and now. Within these moments, what productive thing are you doing that works best for you?
Bobby puts it this way: “Is what I am doing making me better or hurting me?”
For Petrocelli, that question made all the difference, and helped him toward a healthy outcome. it was the moments where he would ask if what he was doing was helping or hurting him towards a healthy outcome. He set a growth mindset.
Here are the very simple and true bullets I took from this part of my conversation with Petrocelli:
- Be still
- You’re One of a Kind
- Don’t Rob Yourself
- Find Those Roots on a Tree as a Friends
Very simple and true.
Be present and know that in stillness great things will happen.
You’re One of a Kind
Self-Esteem. Stop focusing on being beautiful on the outside and look within yourself and know you are one of a kind. There is nothing or nobody else like you.
Don’t Rob Yourself
You have a gift and you need to use it. Don’t let what is so special about you be robbed because you’re not seeing what is special. Self-esteem again. Know you are capable and beautiful and have a growth mindset.
Find the ROOTS on a TREE as your Friends
You want friends that aren’t there for a season. You want friends in your life that are invested. Surround yourself with people who are there to plant seeds rather than pick the fruit. Let them go if they’re not in your life for the right reasons.
Remember: YOU MATTER . . . IT DOESN’T.
There is a WHY to why we are broken, rejected, abandoned, or hurt. Don’t choose to carry this pain with you through life. Develop a growth mindset. Figure out the WHY and ask the HOW questions.
Remember, forgiveness is for you. It’s not for them.
Choose love. Choose you. Choose Growth.
Teens think differently than adults, plain and simple. And there’s more to it than the fact that maturity, life experience and wisdom serve as filters through which adults process their thoughts…
The brain develops from the back to the front, starting with the cerebellum, amygdala and the nucleus accumbens.
You might be thinking: “Did Jeff just cuss at me?”
The Prefrontal Cortex
Those three words I used control your physical activity, emotions and your motivation. The front part of your brain is the last to develop – and this includes the prefrontal cortex, which controls reasoning and impulse.
The front part of the brain doesn’t mature until roughly age 25. See what I’m getting at?
Your teens might be acting recklessly or impulsively because of a huge burst of brain development in adolescence – which explains why kids sometimes act first and think later or display unpredictable or risky behavior.
I know I acted impulsively when I was a teen. Didn’t you? We should give our kids a break and acknowledge that we did reckless things too. If we are open about this, it would be much easier for us to become the trusted adults our kids need in our lives. Remember, though, that that doesn’t mean that we should share everything.
If you couple the not-yet-developed brain with depression or any other mental illness, this reckless behavior can get worse. We have all seen teenagers lash out in a fit of anger, and I don’t mean a typical temper tantrum. Add alcohol and/or drugs to this mix and you have a recipe for disaster.
The Here and Now
Young people live in the here and the now – and they don’t yet have the foresight to realize that something seemingly permanent is in fact fleeting, no matter what it looks like at the time.
Teens: How you feel now isn’t how you will feel tomorrow or ten years from now. Depression, substance abuse or other mental illnesses are certain to compound the feeling that what might be going on now will be permanent.
There is hope. Even when you think you are at rock bottom, there is hope. Remember that there are people who understand how you feel – and more importantly why you feel or act the way you do. You are growing up and maturing like everybody else. You are not alone.
Above content is Part Five in a series based on Jeff’s new book, Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic
To find out more about The Jeff Yalden Foundation, go HERE.
ORDER your copy of Jeff’s new book, Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic.
To book Jeff for your school, event or conference, call 800-948-9289.
Last year, high school mental health speaker Jeff Yalden visited Upper Scioto Valley High School in McGuffey, Ohio and spent a full day speaking to the students, teachers, and parents.
During his visit, Jeff connected with the junior class and developed a relationship with them via Facebook. Watch the video of Jeff’s in 2019. (Click Here).
In February, Jeff was invited back for the school’s Mental Health Day. Who better for your students mental health day than Jeff Yalden? He’s been doing this in school communities all over the country for three decades.
Jeff talks teen mental health, self-harm, self-medicating, depression, and teen suicide. How awesome is it that the students invited Jeff to come back to their school to talk teen mental health? It just goes to show that we can talk mental health and have fun too.
Upper Scioto Valley School District invested in Jeff for a second year in a row. On this visit, Jeff talked to students, teachers, and parents and community again, but this time he brought a slightly different message.
Not only is Jeff a teen mental health motivational speaker, but he also consults with school districts on school culture and school climate.
New Program: Intentional Living
Jeff’s new program, Schools of Intentional Living and Learning, is focused on improving and enhancing school campuses by providing the fundamental modality of self-care and mindful practice. This is accomplished by teaching intentional living and self-advocacy to recharge the mind, body, and the soul.
The benefits of being a School of Intentional Living and Learning includes:
- Improve relationships between students and staff.
- Improve self acceptance and self-esteem.
- Building a family friendly and supportive campus.
- Valuing ourselves and each other.
- To practice self-care improving one’s emotions.
- Teaching equanimity.
- Bring awareness to our mental health and how to be in control.
- To teach compassion, kindness, and empathy.
- To give back and see the benefits of selfless service.
- Less referrals for Discipline.
- More community engagement, especially on campus.
- Becoming a National Recognized School of Influence.
- Teaches time management.
- Teaches non-judgement.
School Culture & Mental Health
Everyday talk is about changing the way we’re engaging in our schools between staff and students. Jeff wants to change the school environment so that schools and campuses are safe, but also friendly and fully functional for overall academic successes. But he also focus on addressing the growing concerns of mental health and our teens.
Since 1992, Jeff has been one of the most sought after high school motivational youth speakers in the world.
At this point in his high school motivational speaking career, Jeff wants to inspire and encourage all individuals in the school community to be fully present and engaged, but without the inherent stress and anxiety that are plaguing today’s society.
Jeff Yalden is a man that lives with mental illness, is a practicing yogi, and working on his 200 hour yoga teacher training certification. He wants to help, inspire, educate, and bring to schools a modality that changes the culture of our schools and in return addresses teacher retention and the mental health of our students.
Mental Health Day at Upper Scioto Valley School District
The day started at 7:00 am where Jeff brought his yoga practice to Upper Scioto Valley High School gym with two elementary teachers and the high school counselor. Jeff introduced his yoga practice and explained how yoga has been beneficial to him living with mental illness.
As Jeff took these three staff members on a simple yoga morning exercise routine he talked about how schools should have a yoga program for students and staff. For one it is great for relationships, protecting the posture of our youth, and also to increase self-esteem, and to be find a practice that helps with mental well-being and so much more.
After the yoga workout, teachers and staff members were waiting for Jeff before the students arrive.
Teacher and Staff Development
Off to the board room where Jeff talked and inspired the staff and teachers from K-12.
What teacher and staff development is actually fun? Ask Jeff, and he always has fun talking to teachers and staff members. Jeff likes to say thank you to teachers for his regret in not thanking the teachers and coaches that made him the man he is today.
For an hour, they talked about teen mental health, teen stress, anxiety, and how to help our students be their own best advocates for their mental well-being.
Aside from the teens, Jeff talked to the staff about their own mental well-being as well.
It’s frustrating that we are losing so many great teachers to other professions because being a teacher was once seen as an incredible job.
Today, being a teacher comes with a lot of stress. Grappling with the mental health of students isn’t something today’s teachers think they’re qualified to handle. It’s a very scary situation when you look at trying to retain teachers and where education is going to be in 10-15 years.
After speaking to the teachers and staff, the middle school and high school students came down to the field house where Jeff spoke to them on teen mental health and advocating for yourself for about an hour and a half.
Teen Mental Health Speaker for High School and Middle School Students
Jeff addressed the students and staff about his journey living with mental illness. He talked to them about being willing to speak up about feelings. His talk also visited teen suicide, self-harm and self-medicating. He also covered drugs, vaping, and how to reduce anxiety.
After the talk, the day was spent with a great mix of fun, classroom talk about coping and problem solving. He also met with individual students and small groups.
Upper Scioto Valley School District did a great job in bringing this mental health awareness day to their school. It was presented in a way that made it fun without heavy conversations or triggers. It was a day that all schools should look to incorporate into their school curriculum.
Another great visit to McGuffey, OH and Upper Scioto Valley High School for Teen Mental Health and High School Mental Health Motivational Speaker, Jeff Yalden.
“Jeff is an amazing speaker and his message is powerful. I heard him for the first time in Atchison,KS after our community suffered from some very tragic losses. Jeff was amazing and helped with the healing process. My high school son heard Jeff speak and his comment to me was “that was powerful mom.” I brought Jeff to my district this past fall. Again, his message was powerful and he touched the lives of many. Jeff you are amazing!!! Keep fighting the fight!” – Julie Crum, Principal
Addressing Teen Suicide & Prevention in SchoolsAddressing teen suicide in schools is becoming more of a concern everyday. Our school administrators are understanding that they need to bring this more attention, but the concern is how to do it in a safe and non-triggering manner that is educational, informative, and provides help for those in need. Without the proper community resources, understand the schools are lacking the correct resources to address students in need of third party professional care. Nonetheless, at the onset, it’s about relationships and getting our youth to talk. It’s important that our students learn about mental health from the same trusted adults they learn everyday from. Full applause to every administrator, teacher, coach, student, and parent that supports this and is willing to address the topic of teen mental health. Bravo! We have a lot of work to do, but let’s not shy away from the topic of Teen Mental Health.
When the Conversation HappensLet’s get acquainted with a few things regarding the conversation about teen mental health, teen suicide, suicidal behavior or mental wellness. First, the conversation don’t need to be in crisis moments. The conversations don’t need to be depressing either. It’s really important that we all get educated and know what to do when the conversation happens in real time. Even before the conversation starts, we need to notice the red flags and potential suicidal behavior that will lead us to have the conversation. Listen, nothing to be worried about. Nothing to want to shy away from. We are adults and we have experience and wisdom. Talk to your teens, students, youth in the same manner you talk about your subject or a current event. You are the trusted and significant adult. They’re going to listen to you. With everything, approach this conversation with compassion, empathy, and be really present with your heart to theirs. This moment is a moment that can shape their life forever and you are that light the individual needs. Give yourself permission to know you can and will say the right thing. Know that you listening and being present is what matters most in this moment.
You Might Not Be QualifiedStop right there. You might not be trained in mental health as a counselor or therapist, but you are trusted as a teacher or you’ve been given the honor of being a mom or dad, coach, aunt, uncle, youth pastor, or some other significant adult. You are qualified in these moments of crisis where a young person trusts in you. What you do in these moments matter most. Your number one job is to cherish this relationship right here and right now. Listen. Care. Be the source that bridges this individual with the person they need to be with to get the help they need. Think parents. Think school counselor. Think professional mental health care. Put this in order. First, get in touch with your school counselor or school administration. You’ve done your job. They will contact parents and let’s hope the parents do the right thing. In the meantime, you’ve done more than what a qualified person can do. A qualified person wasn’t there when the individual needed that trusting and significant adult. Believe in you. However, do remember you are not the therapist and your job isn’t to fix the individual. You being present, compassionate, and giving your attention to the situation is saving the person’s life and giving them hope, permission, and the right advise of what is next.
Warning Signs of Teen SuicideThe warning signs associated with teen suicide should be learned by every adult and student. This should be common place in today’s schools. Just knowing the warning signs alone can make the conversation happen before the individual reaches out. You will know when to intervene. Active listening skills should be a staff development workshop as well as a class for students. This way, anyone hearing or seeing warning signs can intervene when they witness those signs that are a “Cry for help.” The more education we receive on teen suicide behaviors and how to respond the greater chances we have of saving lives and getting people the help they need.
Outside ResourcesAll teachers and school personnel should be given the outside resources that are available within your community. Make it available to all teachers in a booklet and also add it to your school website resources page. Having this information on hand and readily accessible shows genuine concern for your students and also offers a sense of hope in facing life’s challenges.
School Policy on Teen SuicideEvery school should have their policy on teen suicide available along with the resources. This policy should cover the basics of what to look for such as the warning signs, symptoms, myths and facts, clues, and more. This should be written with the help of school counselors, mental health professionals, and should be talked about with all staff present so they’re comfortable in the policies and procedures if and when they find themselves in a conversation or a crisis. Know the policies and procedures and have them written down and provided to all staff. Knowing what to do and how to respond appropriately to suicidal behavior and a crisis or a threat in school or out of school is important to saving a life before an individual reacts emotionally. This knowledge will not only help students and staff members, but it will also possibly avoid lawsuits.
Teen Suicide Behaviors: CluesAll teachers and staff members should be aware of clues that will show the warning signs. Take all signs seriously. If you see something you should say something. If you know something you should do something. You generally have four different types clues that something is wrong:
- Direct Verbal Clues
- Indirect Verbal Clues
- Behavioral Clues
- Situational Clues
- Talking about suicide, hurting themselves, death, or dying
- Seeking access to firearms or pills
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Having severe mood swings
- Feeling hopeless or trapped
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Sleeping all the time or having issues with sleep
- Uncontrolled rage or agitation
- Self-destructive and risky behavior
- Giving away personal belongings
- Telling people goodbye for seemingly no reason
Remember people at any age can experience suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
Other Factors to Consider
- Gender: Men commit suicide successfully 4.5 times more often than women, but women attempt suicide 2-4 times more than men.
- Ethnicity: African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans have lower rates than Euro-Americans.
- However, Native Americans have rates 1.6-4.2 times the national average.
- Sexual orientation: Homosexual teens are three times more likely to attempts suicide than heterosexual teens.
- Previous suicide attempts: Of all completed suicides, 10-40% have previously attempted suicide.
Ways to InterveneKnowing the policies and procedures will help immensely. Follow the guidelines accordingly and be confident to step into action. Be prepared to drop everything to take time to deal with the situation. Take every complaint and feeling the individual expresses seriously. Do not try to minimize the problem by telling the person everything they have to live for. This will only increase feelings of guilt and hopelessness and could result in suicidal behavior. Be calm, supportive, and nonjudgmental. Listen actively and encourage self-disclosure. It is okay to acknowledge the reality of suicide as a choice, but do not “normalize” suicide as a choice. Assure the individual they’re doing the right thing by confiding in you. Do not express discomfort with the situation. Your willingness to discuss it will show the person you care and you want to help. Stay with the person. Never leave him/her alone until further action has been taken. You have done everything you can by just being in the moment, listening and being non-judgemental.
Suicidal Ideation on PhoneIf you are talking to someone via phone, do not hang up; get someone else to call for help on another line. Be on speaker and be texting someone immediately. Don’t overreact until you know the severity, but take all signs seriously. Get someone to the person in distress immediately. Recognize that talking about suicide will not plant the idea! In reality, talking about suicide reduces their anxiety.
Show You Care and Want To HelpListen and ask questions. Show that you are paying attention and that you care. Ask direct, straightforward questions. (“Are you thinking of suicide?”) Be aware that students will usually respond “no.” This is not your place to challenge them or wonder if they’re being truthful. Remember, you are the person that got them talking and the next step will be with the mental health professionals or third party psychiatric care and evaluation. Without you intervening here they may not get the help they need.
- What has happened to make life so difficult?
- What has been keeping you alive so far?
- Are you thinking of suicide?
- Do you have a suicide plan?
- Do you use alcohol or drugs?
- When you think about yourself and the future, what do you visualize?
- Is the means available to you? Remove the means if possible.
- What do you think the odds are that you will kill yourself?
The SLAP MethodDetermining the severity of the risk isn’t your call to make. The situation needs to be addressed with the parents, the school counselors, or a third party mental health professional from your conversation. That includes you calling 911, school administration, school counselor, parents, family members, etc. It’s important that you have this information though because it needs to be documented and shared when you make the call. S = How (S) pecific are the details of the plan? L = What is the (L) evel of lethality of the plan? (Gun vs. aspirin) A = What is the (A) vailability of the proposed method? P = What is the (P) roximity to helping resources? Be positive and supportive in your approach. Help the individual student see that what they’re feeling in this moment is temporary and that the crisis will pass. Just get the individual to breathe. Let the individual know they’re okay and they will be okay. Validate them for sharing and coming forward. Share about that situations we deal with are temporary, but suicide is forever. It’s okay to say this in the conversation. Just remember, you are not a trained therapist and you can’t fix their heart. Just care and be there. In the here and the now, your job is to understand, be compassionate, empathetic, and lead the individual to the right person in the moment of crisis. I can’t repeat that enough.
Support Groups and People to HelpOften an individual contemplating suicide is unaware of the different support groups such as (e.g., counselors, family, friends) that are available. Or, they feel they can’t talk to them or they don’t know how to talk to them. Mention the individual’s family as a source of strength, but if they reject the idea, back away quickly. For teens, the source of pain is usually either the family or the peer group. When you know which it is, you are in a better position to help or refer for help. Use constructive questions to help separate and define the person’s problems and remove some of their confusion. To help the person understand their situation, use active listening and respond empathically. (“It sounds like you feel…”). Allow them to talk and you listen.
Being Prepared in Moments of CrisisIf it’s a crisis situation and you need to make crisis management decisions in the moment. Be decisive. Rapid decision making on the part of the intervener is extremely important. If you need someone to help find out who the individual’s trusted and significant adult is and call for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Example: “So, I know you’re really close with your math teacher, Ms. __________. Would you like me to call and see if she is available?”
Moving Forward in the Moment of CrisisReport the incident or any potential teen suicide behavior to the appropriate school personnel. Again, this is school counselor(s) or school administration. Here again, know the the proper protocol. Know policy and procedure so you move forward according to your school districts guidelines.
Never Leave a Suicidal Person AloneBefore leaving the individual make sure they verbally promise they will be safe and won’t make a forever decision – Commit Suicide. If you can, get the student to sign something that you had written up. Make sure this is the last resort before leaving a student alone in this situation. Teen Suicide and acting on impulse is like what butter is to bread. Know that their behavior and the crisis situation they’re feeling time is of the utmost importance. Do not leave the person alone . . . UNLESS, and this is a big UNLESS, you absolutely have no other choice and you’ve agreed with the person in writing they’ll be okay for the night. If you can’t get hold of school personnel such as counselor or school administration, call the students parents or guardians. Please make a decisive decision for what is in the best interest of the student and their well-being. Save a life first. Depending on the time of day and the whereabouts of this moment, you have to act and do accordingly. Do not keep the person’s threat a secret, but do respect their privacy. Be confident and think through the situation in what is the best, safest, outcome for the individual.
Actions to AvoidResponding in Crisis Situations isn’t easy, but know that in the moment you need to breathe and relax. It’s going to be okay, but here are some things to avoid. Make no promises. This is a situation where it is never appropriate to promise confidentiality. Do not ignore or lessen the suicidal threat. Avoid sounding shocked at the suicidal thoughts. Do not stress the shock or pain that the suicide may cause their family before you are certain that is not exactly what the student hopes to accomplish. Don’t moralize. Do not argue with a student who may be suicidal. You may not only lose the debate, but also the person. Don’t criticize, ridicule, or infer that the person is crazy. Don’t be concerned by long periods of silence. Allow the student time to think. Do not ignore your own intuitions about a student’s suicidal behavior or changes. Do not try to handle the situation alone. Do not attempt in-depth counseling. Be present. Be patient. Listen.
Teen Suicide: Additional InformationIf a suicide does occur, it is essential that the students be provided with accurate facts about the suicide as soon as possible. This information should be given to all students simultaneously. It is necessary to provide sufficient time for discussion and also support for the students. Be careful here, because you need to know what the family/parents are saying. This is also a moment where the school administration may not have had time to brief the school staff. If this is the case, the teachers are already in class and will have to address the situation with their classes. Another reason why it’s important to address teen suicide: behaviors and responding in moments of crisis. Staff members want to know what to say and how to support their students. Give them permission that they’re capable of having this conversation and that it’s okay to speak from their heart. Be gentle, listen, it’s okay to show your emotions. This is real and the kids want real. They want their teachers to be real and not to sugarcoat situation or events. The students will look to you for guidance and support. It’s okay to just say, “I don’t know right now. I’m shocked. I have to process this and breathe. Right now, that’s all we can all do.” It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry. This really sucks!” Allow them to talk and express their feelings. Getting them to talk openly and together is the best and safest thing as they’re all together. Keep the students in school. School is the safest place for everyone to be. Together.
Teen Suicide Statistics
- Of the people that commit the act of suicide, 90% have showed signs that indicated they needed help. Most have told someone within the previous couple weeks that they were thinking about hurting themselves.
- In the past 30 years, teen suicide has increased 300%.
- Among children between the ages of 10-14, suicide has gone up 112%.
- For every completed suicide, there are between 300 attempts.
- Suicidal adolescents are a diverse group. Be aware of the ripple effect.
- Research shows an increase in adolescent suicide following media coverage of a high profile suicide.
Jeff Yalden: Teen Mental Health and High School Assemblies
Videos of Recent Teen Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Speaking Engagements:
We can no longer sweep mental illness under the carpet…
Teen suicide and the opioid crisis are crippling communities on a scale we have never seen. We have major issues on our hands that point to an underlying component of mental illness – and if the stigma surrounding mental illness leads to under-reported suicides, who is to say that an overdose isn’t a suicide? A death certificate might attribute the cause of a death to suicide, but oftentimes we have no idea about intent.
According to USA Today, more than 175 Americans die daily of drug overdoses – which is greater than the number of teens to make the forever decision to take their lives.
What do we do, then? Can we sit idly by and hope the government will step up and do something, or can we empower ourselves by coming up with our own solutions…
Coming up with the answers ourselves seems like a much better idea.
We all need to step up, and that goes double if we are parents. We need to be present – ready and willing to talk about the issues facing our kids in this complicated world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 300 million people worldwide are affected by depression. That number proves that depression is the most common mental health issue – and depression can be the catalyst that leads people to suicide.
Depression falls under the umbrella of mental illness – and if any diagnosis related to mental illness is ignored or left untreated, a quality life of joy and happiness could be very difficult. Is this you?
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Approximately 44,000 Americans die by suicide every year. One person out of 25 who attempt suicide will succeed.
As if the above heartbreaking statistics weren’t enough, suicide takes a heavy toll on the national economy. The Education Development Center at Brandeis University cited research putting the national cost of suicide at $58.4 billion based on reported numbers alone (much of this represented by lost productivity) – but determined that the cost has been significantly underestimated.
“The researchers calculated that the annual public cost of suicide attempts and suicides in the United States is approximately $93.5 billion—nearly twice previously thought. Their study appears in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, the official journal of the American Association of Suicidology.”
Our teens are suffering, and the number of teen deaths by suicide is rising. It is truly a public health crisis.
Paying close attention to teen mental health is the new normal for us. We – parents, teachers, school staff, coaches and administrators – need to accept this and understand the responsibility we all have.
To book Jeff for your school, event or conference, call 1-800-948-9289You can learn more about Jeff Yalden by visiting his website – www.JeffYalden.com. You can also learn more about Jeff’s Suicide Prevention Online Course for School Communities and Parents, Jeff Yalden University, and follow Jeff on YouTube and Social Media by clicking on the links below: Online Suicide Prevention Course for School Communities Facebook Page School Resources Join Mailing List: Text YALDEN to 66866