Jeff Yalden’s heart sank when he heard the news of two completed suicides and one suicide attempt last month in Brookfield, Missouri. Two more young lives cut short by what he calls the “forever decision” in an area that has suffered too much loss already. Yalden is a teen mental health and youth motivational speaker. He is also a teen suicide and crisis intervention expert. For more than 25 years, he has worked in the trenches of communities hit hard by suicide contagion, and has proven to be effective in preventing further suicides and bringing hope to communities that have lost hope. Yalden visited the Brookfield school community a year ago, and remains friends with Angie Smith Wallace, a STUCO advisor and teacher at Brookfield High School. Wallace also founded the Taylor Gilpin Wallace Foundation for Suicide Prevention on behalf of her son after her son made the forever decision to take his own life. In the above video, Yalden reached out because several people in the community reached out to him. “Words can’t adequately describe the pain I feel in my heart when I hear of the death of a young person, or in your case the many losses your community has felt over the past year,” he said. “I can tell you now that you might not be done, but you have to do something immediately.” In the video, Yalden laid out the two questions that young people need to have answered by the trusted adults in their lives: Can I trust you? Do you care about me? He also talked about the fact that most young people don’t want adults to fix their problems. “They want to feel validated that what they are thinking and feeling is normal. Growing up and understanding is on their terms, and today’s teens are growing up differently than their parents did.” For more about this, check out Yalden’s TEDx talk HERE. The factors contributing to suicide, put forth by Dr. Thomas Joiner at Florida State University, are three-fold: “I am alone.” “I am a burden.” “I have the desire for suicide.” “Teens don’t want to die,” said Yalden. “They live in the here-and-now, and see solutions to their problems as so far out there that they can’t solve in the now, so the pain of ‘I am alone’ and ‘I am a burden’ carries on day after day, week after week – and they get discouraged with never being happy.” Yalden said that leads to a persistent form of depression called dysthymia, which could lead to the desire for suicide. “Teens need relationships. They need trusted adults that are patient, giving of their time, understanding, supportive, and love them unconditionally,” he said, adding that it is imperative that we teach them coping skills and problem-solving skills and instill in them the importance of balance and boundaries, especially when it comes to social media, the Internet and YouTube. Too much exposure to social media, as Yalden explains in this video, can also cause depression and other mental health issues in our teens. Mental illness threatens to become the biggest public health crisis in America, and this is no longer a family issue, according to Yalden. This is an economic issue. He said that mental illness and depression factor into 90 percent of suicides – and many suicides are preceded by factors that we don’t even notice. “Why should we notice it when we weren’t even looking for it,” he said. “The individuals that are on the schools’ radars aren’t necessarily the ones we need to look out for. A lot of school communities have said to me, ‘Jeff, we didn’t even know there was a problem. There were no signs. This is the last person we would have suspected.’” As a man who proudly lives with mental illness every day, Yalden is all about crushing the stigma attached to it. “It’s OK to ask for help!” Yalden can’t overemphasize the importance of a healthy self-esteem. “I promise – on the other side of fear is self-esteem. Don’t let anyone take that from you. You have to do the work, though,” he said. He said that this very sad time affects us all – and this is a time that will shape us. “This will either expose wounds or build muscles. It’s your choice how you respond. Allow yourself to grieve on your terms. I am so sorry and thinking of you all,” he said. For more information, go HERE. Check out Jeff’s new nonprofit HERE. To book Jeff now, call (800) 948-9289.
Jeff Yalden Shares Messages of Hope and Comfort to Missouri Communities Rocked by Teen Suicides By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker According to teen suicide prevention expert Jeff Yalden, the state of Missouri is going through a really tough time right now when it comes to teen suicide. Three weeks ago, Yalden delivered a comprehensive presentation about teen suicide and mental health in Hannibal, MO, and returned this week to Brookfield and Barnard, MO, two communities that are still reeling from the losses of two irreplaceable young people. BROOKFIELD On Tuesday, March 7, students from five schools in Linn County converged on Brookfield High School to hear Jeff Yalden speak to them on their level, and planting seeds of hope, enthusiasm and perseverance – and what he calls a drive for success in their journey of life. He captivated middle and high-schoolers, urging them to live in the now and what that might mean – the ups and downs, the challenges and the victories wrapped up in the everyday moments that, strung together, make up a life. The assembly was only the beginning for Yalden. He was booked by Angie Wallace, who founded the Taylor Gilpin Wallace Foundation for Suicide Prevention on behalf of her son after her son made the forever decision to take his own life. “Angie brought me in for an all-day event – high school kids, middle school kids, a luncheon with the community and a parent program – very similar to Hannibal,” he said, adding that Wallace and her son Tanner attended the program in Hannibal. The luncheon was attended by student council kids, physicians, the CEO of the local hospital, prominent community members and the executive director of the Missouri Association of Student Councils, Terri Johnson. A young man stood up and shared his story from when he was contemplating suicide. “Really, what this day was about was inviting the community to open their hearts and minds and understand mental health and teen suicide and how real it is,” he said. Following a dinner with the Wallace family, which Jeff cites as amazing, warm and generous, it was off to the parent program – which was set up at Park Baptist Church in Brookfield. The program was live on Wallace’s foundation page, garnering appreciative comments from as far afield as Texas. “We had about 200 community members come out to my parent program,” he said. “We had clear eyes and full hearts. We shed tears. We also laughed and did some reflecting. It was a beautiful day.” BARNARD That night, Yalden drove more than two hours to Barnard, MO, where just four weeks ago, a young lady named Baylee ended her own at just 16. “A lot of teachers and counselors said that Baylee was probably the most popular junior in her class and that she was an old soul,” he said, adding that Baylee’s grandfather also committed suicide, and that they were very close. “Baylee had a disease that was a little bit debilitating, but she learned how to deal with it. She had a great personality – vibrant and ornery. You couldn’t help but to love her, they say.” She took her life on February 5 – Super Bowl Sunday. He spoke at South Nodaway High School and noted that the principal, Darbi Bauman, was actually Baylee’s aunt. Guidance counselor Nick Wray coordinated the event, and Yalden met with all the classes individually before delivering a speech at the full assembly. The school serves grades 7-12 with total enrollment of 84 students. Students from nearby Jefferson High School attended the assembly as well. After a brief visit with faculty and staff, Yalden visited Baylee’s family’s house. “I sat down with mom, dad and her sister and heard the story. I read the suicide letter and saw Baylee’s bedroom,” he said. Yalden also saw Baylee’s scrapbook at school, and helped her fellow students clean out her locker – a poignant moment, but one which gave these young people a sense of closure. At the family home, Yalden was hit with a realization. “For the first time in my life, I think I’d come to realize that not all suicides are a selfish individual act, and there’s so much more to explain how I feel about this situation – but Baylee knew what she was doing. It was a combination of many things, and I think Baylee was just really, really tired.” However, Yalden said this left the community rocked to the core. “There is heartache. Everybody is hurting. They were very concerned with the kids and them moving forward. This is a very tight community,” he said. He closed out the night with a family/community program attended by more than 200 family members. “After leaving that community and hearing the hearts of everybody and the pain in those hearts, I’ll tell you – Baylee was definitely the one girl you would want to meet. To discover more about North America’s Number One Youth Motivational Speaker – visit www.jeffyalden.com. Book Jeff now by calling 800-948-9289.