Jeff Yalden Inspired by Conversation with TeensRecently, I visited Sequim High School in Washington State. Sequim is a beautiful place along the Dungeness River near the Olympic Mountains – and whenever I am in a spot like this, I feel grateful for the opportunity to take it all in. The Sequim school community was amazing. One of the things I truly love about my full-day school programs is that I get to meet and really get to know the students. They are so open when we talk, and that’s inspiring. Because I have more time, I learn more about them – what they think, how they feel – and I am able to get an understanding of their emotions by engaging with them. By listening. The students are enthusiastic, and I could tell that they had so many questions they didn’t seem to know how to ask – but once you gain their trust (and their respect), they are eager to talk. What happens next is absolutely amazing… During one conversation in this VIDEO, a young lady asked me a great question: “What makes you valuable?” I thought about it and told her that what makes me valuable is that I’ve been able to take my life experiences and choose to be a victor through my circumstances instead of a victim. It hasn’t been easy – but in getting to know myself, it’s an honor to share what I have learned in order to plant seeds of wisdom, hope and knowledge in our youth. Her next question was incredibly thought-provoking, deep and intense: “If you lost all of what makes you valuable, would you still be valuable?” Holy Cow! What really makes us valuable? It’s different for everyone, but what hit me with this question is that I don’t need my life’s experiences or even my career as a youth and mental health speaker to feel valuable. I get it, but I don’t think I always understood that. It’s my passion to inspire our school communities, talking about mental health and life and helping to make sense of it all for young people and families – but I don’t need the applause to feel valuable or worthy. What makes me valuable is how I feel about who I am – my heart – being a kind, respectful man of influence and dignity. I was amazed by this exchange and could go on and on about it and what it meant to me as well as to the young people involved. It was remarkable getting to know these teens and speaking heart-to-heart with them. I was inspired. I hope you enjoy this video and share it. The next time you engage in conversation with teens, remember this: Teens don’t care about titles, research or statistics. They care about the answers to two questions…
- Do you care about me?
- Can I trust you?
Who is Jeff Yalden?Jeff Yalden is highly regarded as one of the top teen mental health and suicide prevention experts in the world. He works with teens and adults, school communities and mental health professionals. He’s a four-time bestselling author, radio show host, podcast host, online course creator, non-profit foundation founder, and advocate for mental health. Teen Suicide Prevention Online Course for Schools and Communities: CLICK HERE For more information about Jeff Yalden, CLICK HERE. BUY Jeff’s new book, Teen Suicide: The “WHY” behind America’s Suicide Epidemic. Check out Jeff’s Facebook page HERE.
I was so far north that I saw cars with amphibious tracks on them as they drove through the snow. No kidding – and one of them was a Smart Car.
While I was about to get ready for my day, I came across a VIDEO that a nonprofit called Sandy Hook Promise put together by several family members of victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. These folks have gone on a crusade and are making an incredible difference in the world. I applaud them.
Trigger warning: Here’s the video – but it could be tough to watch:
The video is powerful, and I am still trying to process it – but because of this, I started thinking: What difference are we making in the world?
Listen, maybe you haven’t gone through a gut-wrenching tragedy like Sandy Hook or Parkland, Columbine or any of these mass school shootings. Maybe you’re a mom, a teacher, a coach, a businessperson – a dad, a friend – a youth speaker – a pastor – I don’t know. Maybe you just wake up, go to work and do your thing every day – and the next day and the day after that. That’s beside the point.
It doesn’t matter what you do. My question is simply this: What difference are you making in the world to make it a better place?
You might be thinking, “Well – I really don’t have a platform to do much.” OK. Or, “Well Jeff – I’m really not in that position. Well, Jeff – I’m really focused on my family…”
Good. I understand.
I am a big believer in the “think globally, act locally” course of action. We can make a huge difference right in our own little corners of the world. Think about what you can do – right here, right now.
Maybe you are a parent. It’s important to put your family first. Let’s say you go to your child’s sports events. I think you can make a difference in the type of parent and fan you are by being supportive of everybody else’s kids too. And stop screaming at the referees if you think they made a bad call. You can choose to be objective and understand that the refs have a tough job to make calls on the spot and they are not always perfect.
But the bottom line is that we should support and applaud our refs and our coaches – and we honor the work that they are doing every single day. I think that’s making a difference in the world.
What about if you work with other people every day in your job? I think your attitude and your behavior make a difference. For those in education, you’ve got young people under your watch every single day. You are making a difference by being supportive and encouraging, knowing that your words and actions make a huge impact in the life of a child.
Everybody has an opportunity to make a difference in the world – and this means you. It doesn’t have to me a monumental thing, either. Think about your sphere of influence – your words, your actions, your attitude and your kindness – being a person of selfless service and acting with grace.
I don’t know what this looks like for you – but you don’t need to overthink the issue. When you walk into a restaurant, hold the door open for somebody. When a car stops to allow you to cross the street – wave at the driver. Say “thank you.”
When I was in Baudette, I was standing in line in a convenience store, getting an Arnold Palmer (half iced tea and half lemonade). I was the fifth person in line, so I watched the four people in front of me as they got rung up. As the cashier said, “can I help you” and “have a nice day,” not one of these people so much as said “hi” or “thank you.”
Not one of these people – grownups who should know better – said anything.
If we’re looking to make a difference in the world, my friends, it’s sometimes a simple nod, a smile, a “thank you” or “have a great day.” That’s it.
These simple gestures have a ripple effect – radiating outward from you and into the lives of others.
Now go out there and make a difference.
This blog post has been adapted from an upcoming episode of Jeff’s podcast, Mental Health and Motivation: The Unlikely Life Coach. Click HERE to subscribe.
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 Betty at 800-948-9289.
- We spend time worrying about whether we have others’ approval or how we can get it
- We spend time trying to convince others that our way is right and their way is wrong
- We get caught up in thinking and behavior patterns of an older version of ourselves
- We see others according to our labels and judgements of them, rather than who they really are
- Everyone has their own path that is right and true for them. We all have a way of living and approaching each day that works for us. And it’s natural for us to want others, especially those we love, to follow our path too. It’s important to recognize though, that trying to convince others that our way is best, will usually lead to disappointment. On the contrary, change can surprisingly and naturally occur in others when we stay true to our own path, without trying to change a thing about theirs. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.
- We can still show love to others when we disagree with their way. Just because we don’t agree with how someone else lives their life, it doesn’t mean we have to change how we interact with them and whether or not we extend love and care towards them. Rather than being threatened, dismayed or frustrated by our differences, we can celebrate them.
- Rather than trying to change others, focus on yourself. We empower ourselves when we shift attention away from how others live, and place our awareness on our own lives.
Teen Suicide . . . A Message to Parents!Teen Suicide seems to be happening more and more in communities all over the country. Teens want answers, Parents are overreacting, Schools are getting blamed, and everyone wants action and a plan now. The greatest influence on our teens at the time of a teen suicide is the role a parent plays in their lives and especially at this very moment under these tragic circumstances. Parents, with their greater life experiences and wisdom, can place the events in a child’s life in its proper context or perspective. Teens look to adults for an interpretation of events, and measure the meaning of it, including the degree of danger they are in, by the reaction of their parents and other adults around them. It is critical that our teens are able to maintain a positive view of the world and a positive opinion of themselves in spite of the circumstances.
The Grieving Process:Grieving is a natural and temporary response to an important loss. People do not respond to a death related loss in any particular stage, progression, or pace. Some believe that the process is more like a roller-coaster type pattern in which waves of various emotions are experienced. It is important to encourage children to cry if they feel sad. It can be said that when we feel really sad, letting ourselves cry is as important to our mental health as is eating when we are hungry, drinking when we are thirsty, and sleeping when we are tired. Most individuals return to their regular routines within one to three days. Yet a sustained period of bereavement may last four to six weeks. An intermittent patters of bereavement continues in the form of painful thoughts and feelings which often resurface in the future more intensely at birth and death dates, holidays and special events, places or other experiences that are reminders of the deceased. Memories of the deceased may change or diminish over time but the deceased friend will not be forgotten.
Common Reactions to the Death of a Friend:In addition to sadness, it is common for people to feel confusion, fear, anger, self-blame and guilt. Other common reactions include feelings of loneliness, a sense of responsibility or regret, reminders and dreams of the deceased, concentration difficulties, minor sleeping difficulties and mild somatic complaints.
What Can Parents Do?A parent’s emotional response to a grieving teen can reduce the emotional effect or make it worse for the teen.
- Here are suggested parental responses: Be physically present, show warmth and compassion, be patient, allow the teen to talk about it, listen carefully, acknowledge feelings, show an understanding of what happened, give reasonable reassurance and follow through on promises and agreements made. Teens will try to make some sense of what happened and it is important for them to come to a resolution about the event. Carefully challenge any negative conclusions and reinforce the positive ones.
- The following parental behaviors can be harmful: Focus on self instead of the teen, deny the seriousness of the event, shrug off the teen’s feelings, tell the teen not to think or talk about it, make assumptions, overreact with anxiety or anger, withdraw from the teen, or make major changes in the normal household activities and routines.
Reactions to be concerned about:Some teens, because of their emotional proximity to the death event, may be more prone to develop the psychological symptoms of Major Depression. There are two causes for Major Depression. One is the result of a neuro-chemical imbalance in the brain. The other results from an experience such as a significant loss. Your teen may have Major Depression if the following five (or more) symptoms have been present during the same two week period:
- Feeling really unhappy, sad or empty inside most of the day, nearly every day
- An obvious loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, friends and activities most of the day, nearly every day
- Weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (more than 5% of body weight in a month)
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much nearly every day
- Slowness of thought, speech and activity or extreme agitation/restlessness
- Feelings of low energy or fatigue nearly every day
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, shame or a lot of guilt nearly every day
- Difficulty concentrating, making basic decisions and doing school work nearly every day
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Post Traumatic Stress DisorderA teens response to a near death experience, witnessing a death or serious injury, hearing about the death of a friend, living through a natural or man made disaster, etc. usually involves intense fear and helplessness. There may also be feelings of anger, horror, shame, or disgust. A near death experience, witnessing a death or witnessing a serious injury is often sudden, unexpected, shocking and overwhelming. Teens and children may be less able than adults to cope with traumatic events because they have fewer skills to draw upon, are less experienced and are also less aware of the dangers in life. Furthermore, when bad things happen to adults they are, because of their greater life experience and wisdom, usually more prepared to place the event in its proper perspective or context. When traumatic things happen to a teen or child, a number of predictable reactions may occur. These reactions are common responses to abnormally upsetting events. Some affected children are able to effectively cope by thoroughly talking about the traumatic event and their reaction to it. Those who do not are more likely to develop symptoms. Symptoms are those changes which cause major distress in the person or badly interfere with his or her relationship with family or friends, performance at school, sports, their job or other activities. Such symptoms may appear within 24 hours of the traumatic experience, or they may be delayed by several days, weeks or months. Traumatic events can produce intrusive experiences, avoidance behaviors and increased arousal that may affect both daily activities and dreaming. Research shows that once they occur, there thoughts and behaviors will not just fade away. In fact, they may grow worse as they are triggered repeatedly by cues similar to the original trauma. According to the American Psychiatric Association (1994) the following are some examples of intrusive experiences, avoidance behaviors and increased arousal:
- Visions, thoughts or other sensations of the traumatic incident that occur over and over again, against one’s will and at undesirable times
- Nightmares or recurring dreams that may or may not seem related to the incident
- Cold sweats, heart palpitations, dizziness, panic feelings, or extreme nervousness when reminded in some way of the event
- Attempts to avoid certain people, conversations, places, activities, or any other thing associated with the event
- Feeling emotionally detached or estranged from friends
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Amnesia or an inability to recall an important or obvious aspect of the event
- Negative or empty thoughts about the future
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritable moods or unusual outbursts of anger
- Concentration problems
- A fear of phobia not present before the traumatic event
- Exaggerated reaction to; unexpected sounds, being touched without warning, certain smells and certain sights