Weighing on the heart of youth motivational speaker and author Jeff Yalden is the issue of teen suicide. He has grieved with so many families over more than two decades, yet with each devastating loss, the heartache and pain – the very idea of trying to be a source of hope and comfort – only compounds the sobering realization that teen suicide epidemic continues to grow. He recently recalled visiting South Nodaway High School in Barnard, Mo., just weeks after 16-year-old Baylee Hilsabeck made the forever decision to end her own life. “The first thing you notice walking through a school this size in a community this small is that you are not walking into a school – you are walking into a home. This is family,” he said. The fact that there were only 84 kids in the building made it painfully obvious to Yalden how much a tragic loss like this could rock the students and the general community. He remembered coming in for a day of counseling, humbled by the privilege and opportunity to be a source of hope to the community. “Let’s be honest: We are all a mess – and that is common ground. We must come together and pick each other up,” he said. “We come from different backgrounds – raised in different homes – but over the past 25 years of doing this, it doesn’t change that we need each other.” The problem is not going away. “More and more teenagers and adults are making momentary decisions that have a lasting impact. The forever decision is often made without thought.” The fact that many teachers and counselors said that Baylee was probably the most popular junior in her class proves that suicide does not discriminate. Her grandfather also committed suicide, and the two were very close. Nobody will ever know what prompted her to take her life, but there is some speculation that part of this might have had to do with health issues. “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,” Yalden said. “You couldn’t help but to love her, they say.” Yalden sat down with her mom and dad, read the suicide letter and saw Baylee’s bedroom. He 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.” Yalden’s takeaway from visiting Barnard was moving. “My team and I got to witness laughter and joy as we shared the hope and knowledge to make this event a catalyst for change in the future,” he said. “Baylee was a very special young lady that touched a lot of hearts and changed a lot of lives.” To find out more about Jeff’s youth programs and suicide prevention workshops, click HERE. To order a copy of Jeff’s new book, BOOM! One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every Day, go HERE. Book Jeff now for your school, event or organization by calling 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.