EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeff will be on hand all day tomorrow, April 3, for students, parents, community members, and recent graduates. For details, contact Atchison High School at (913) 367-4162.

Hey Atchison Community –

A lot of people in the community and parents have reached out to me and shared with me the latest loss.

First and foremost, I want to share my thoughts and prayers to the young man’s family, friends and the people that know the young man and the family. I am sorry.

I was just in your community. I love your community.

I wanted to come by and offer you a couple of thoughts.

My friends, I don’t think suicide is ever the right decision. I think suicide is a permanent action to a temporary problem – but I get it. I understand where young people are.

I want to share with you again two reasons why young people end up with the thought for the desire for suicide:

1) Young people feel alone – basically it feels like you don’t have meaningful relationships.

I get it.

We live in a world today where we spend so much time on smartphones and social media, and it’s about balance and boundaries. I don’t really want to go there, but if you spend more than four or five hours a day on screen time, you are 70 percent more likely to have depression in your life. So – I want to encourage you – less screen time and more social engagement.

And when you have social engagement – whether it’s a trusted adult, whether it is your friends – where you are problem solving, communicating and you are together – listen, that takes care of the “I am alone.” That makes sense, right?

2) The other reason is that you feel like you are a burden.

This basically means that you feel that you don’t make any notable contributions to the world and that you serve as a liability – and that you are disappointing your parents, teachers or coaches because maybe their expectations are so high – and you are spending so much time on your smartphones that you are not focusing on things that are really important: Your motivation. Your school, your future – your direction.

Here’s what happens: When emotionally you feel like you are alone and that you are a burden – and it lasts so long – suddenly you end up with that desire.

I don’t think young people want to die. I think one of the problems is that young people live in the here and the now.

Young people – you don’t know what you don’t know. Like, you don’t know what it was like at one time to not have smartphones, Internet, social media or YouTube – so you are the first generation growing up with this.

I think we have done a disservice to our young people as a society.

We have given young people these rights and these privileges where this frontal lobe, or frontal development has not matured and come into focus – so the emotions that come with smartphones, the Internet and social media – we’re not mature enough to emotionally handle the result of this.

If your parents aren’t going to say no and teach you balance and boundaries – it’s hard for you to put that balance and those boundaries in your life – but that’s something that you have to start working on.

Social and emotional learning does not come as a result of being on the screen all of the time. Online time can affect mental health in a negative way. Social engagement social interaction can help your mental health.

Think about it.

Two of the biggest things that we are concerned about with teenagers today are coping skills and problem-solving skills. We live in the here and the now. We think that we go to the bank and an ATM spits out cash. We send a text and get an immediate reply…

Again – Atchison, Kansas – I don’t know the details on this young man. But I will tell you this: It’s going to be OK.

My friends, it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to want to talk to somebody. I meet young people all the time and they say, “Yo – I don’t want to talk to anybody because every time I talk to someone, it’s like they are telling me my emotions don’t matter. I shouldn’t feel like this, and it’s like they aren’t validating how I feel.”

Part of being young is about having crazy emotions and feelings – and not understanding them.

And it’s OK to have that trusted adult to go talk to.

I spoke at a school in Indiana today, and a girl wanted to talk afterwards. The girl has been in counseling for two years. Do you know that today she told me more than her two counselors knew about her? I asked her why she felt comfortable telling me what she did.

“I don’t know,” she said. “You seem like you get it.”

Don’t you think you have trusted adults in your life that – if you gave them the chance – they would get it too?

Folks – we can’t help you if we don’t know.

“Well Jeff – I don’t know how to talk to someone…”

When you didn’t know how to ride a bike, that didn’t stop you, did it?

When you didn’t know how to ask a girl out – you still found a way, right?

When trusted adults in your life sit down with you and something is wrong, they know what to say. You just have to be willing to just go up to them and say, “I don’t know what to say but I am kind of really struggling.”

When I spoke to that child today, I can’t tell you how many times she said, “I don’t know” in tears – and you know what I did? I just kept asking her if she felt safe and if she knew she wasn’t in trouble.

As long as she knew those two things – little by little, she opened up. It was a beautiful day.

My point is simply this: Suicide is a permanent action to a temporary problem.

If you are afraid to talk to a trusted adult and you don’t open up to anybody – and living in the here and the now – all of this pressure is so much that you start to think that the desire is there – but it doesn’t ever need to get to the point where you have that desire.

But you have to have the courage to realize that it’s OK to go talk to somebody.

I am praying for you. I’m sorry, and I love you guys.

Don’t be afraid to open your heart and find a trusted adult. And they are going to support you and encourage you – but you have to open up.

For more information, visit www.jeffyalden.com

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