On April 11, youth motivational speaker Jeff Yalden arrived at Hudson Falls High School in Hudson Falls, New York, where he kicked off the school’s career day with one of his hard-hitting assemblies. For Yalden, the third time was the charm. “Weather prevented the first two attempts,” he said, adding that he was on his way the first time – and was actually in town the second time, watching a varsity basketball game the night before – but a snowstorm caused school to be cancelled the next day. “I had to leave and pay my own expenses to come all the way back, but – that’s what you do.” He said that assistant principal Danielle Kuba was his point of contact, and had been trying to get him to come back to speak for the past few years. Jeff’s assembly was followed by a career day, coupled with a St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser for childhood cancer research. In the assembly, Yalden drilled down on topics such as self-esteem and authenticity. “When things aren’t right in my life – even today – the first place I go is to the mirror,” he told them. “The fear of failure – you need to lose that real quick. Value yourself. Figure out who you are now – not who you want to be then – because then may never work out the way you want it to be. And it’s really important to figure out who you are not.” The kids participated in mindfulness training and were exposed to various careers, including law enforcement, education and the military. They were even given pointers on financial planning for their futures. “They had a few former students who were addicted to drugs and had to go to rehab and go through the court system. They came back and spoke to the kids, and they were awesome,” Yalden said. Yalden presented a mental health and teen suicide prevention program. The last part of the day was spent raising money for St. Baldrick’s – and this involved the shaving of heads, including those of students and event coordinator Kim Shea. Yalden offered to pay the difference to make sure Shea had her head shaved, with students chanting, “Shave the Shea! Shave the Shea!” “We raised more than $1000 to conquer kids’ cancer and a great day of school spirit. I am just really inspired about the day here – it’s about the relationship between the kids and the staff – and the staff and the kids. I think all of this contributes to a very successful experience,” he said. Shea was happy to see everybody participating in something above and beyond the confines of a regular school day. “When we have activities like this in our school that aren’t necessarily purely academic – when we take the time to connect with our students in different ways than we connect with them every day – it should encourage them to want to be here, and hopefully they will see all of us – all of the people from the community, all their teachers, their teaching assistants, the support staff in our building – and they will recognize that we really care about them in 100 different ways that they might not really consider on a daily basis,” she said. Kuba cited the day as one of the best she has had since she started there as assistant principal in January. “I loved seeing our kids in a different light,” she said. “I loved seeing them having fun. I loved seeing them connecting with each other – and to see them tune in to Jeff was incredible. To see them connecting with their teachers and the other staff members was just an absolute joy.” Principal Jim Bennefield was equally impressed with the day. “It’s just nice to see our kids live up to their potential. That’s the potential we know they have every day. We don’t get to see that every day, and hopefully we will see more of that going forward,” he said.
Jeff Yalden Electrifies Cambridge, MN By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker On Wednesday, March 22, Jeff Yalden brought his motivational and mental health expertise to Anoka Ramsey Community College in Cambridge, MN, where he spent a full day with the psychology club and the counseling department. Anoka Ramsey was a top-ten finalist for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence through the Aspen Institute, which is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to educational and policy studies. After breakfast, Yalden spoke with college staff about a message board out in the hallway which had been seen a spike in negative feedback about emotions. “The board usually inspires kids to come check it out, and they would post questions on it, but the school was becoming concerned about their mental health and mental awareness – so they decided to take action and brought me in,” he said. The first step was mindfulness training, which began with an exercise to chart anxiety levels on a scale from one to ten, with ten being the highest. “For us to be healthy, I think we should be operating between two and four,” he said, adding that celebrating little victories and small accomplishments is a good way step back and provide a needed mental break. He spent some time teaching a basic meditation practice of focusing only on breath – the inhale and the exhale – for two minutes. “This slows down your brain – slows the process down,” he said. “We are concerned with how many likes we have on Instagram or who is following us on Snapchat. I think the best thing for you guys is to work hard at finding out who you are – and who you are not.” He went on to talk about his battles with mental health and depression and then shifted to mental health awareness and suicide prevention – how to look out for your friends and not being afraid to say something. “Somebody that isn’t mentally healthy is not thinking in the right frame of mind,” he said. Yalden stressed the importance of getting back “in purpose” after a setback or crisis. “When there is something not right in my life, I go right to the mirror. Take responsibility and be your best advocate.” But sometimes the first and best thing a person can do is to ask for help. “Sometimes the down periods last longer than usual. This is usually the result of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters being out-of-balance.” Two contributing factors to suicide can be dysthymia [a persistent mild depression] and adjustment disorder [usually following a stressful life event like a death of a loved one, moving, divorce, changing schools]. “If you have any of these for more than two weeks, go talk to somebody,” he said. One student told him, “My tomorrow will be better, and I will not feel down about it. I don’t let myself down because I love myself.” Impressed, Yalden built on that: “You are doing the little things every day to make tomorrow better than today – and you are making today better than yesterday.” But this requires consistency. “That’s an incredible discipline that you have to do every day. The problem is, you can’t just do it once in a while. You do it every single day and your whole life will change,” he said. To find out why Jeff Yalden is North America’s Number One Youth Motivational Speaker, visit www.jeffyalden.com. Book Jeff now for your next event by calling 800-948-9289.
By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker After he was already booked to speak at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO, North America’s Number One Youth Motivational Speaker Jeff Yalden got an email that there had been a student suicide on campus. “The young man was a sophomore and part of the men’s lacrosse team, and as you can imagine – this rattled the community and the school,” he said, adding that the athletic director asked Yalden if he could come in a day early to speak with the athletes, because they would be out of town competing on March 21, the day he was to speak. This would have involved changing his existing flights, resulting in additional fees that would be passed on to the school. “They said they didn’t have that in their budget, and this weighed on my heart. I told them I would come in on my dime and do it for free. I’d spend an extra day and then come back on the second night,” he said. Ultimately, the school decided to go a different route, and Yalden spoke on the day he was scheduled. “We had a great turnout. About 150 people showed up to the mental health/suicide prevention talk – and we didn’t really talk about the suicide too much, but we addressed it.” Yalden did, however, talk heavily about his three-point theory about teen suicide: 1) I am alone. 2) I am a burden and a liability to other people. 3) I have the desire for suicide. He talked about major depression, which is short but severe – causing young people to feel as if it will never end and prompt a suicide attempt. He mentioned dysthymia, which is a lower-level but constant depression that can also lead to suicide if left undiagnosed. “Suicide is the culmination of a lot of things, and one thing can be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said, and addressed the stigma attached to mental health. “None of you are laughing at me because I have glasses – and if I put my glasses on, life gets a little better. Same thing with therapy or maybe going to the doctor and taking medication. You [should] be your best advocate.” Yalden spent some time talking about cell phones and social media, and the effect these things are having on young people today, and said video will soon overtake all other types of content by 2020. Indeed, a recent Cisco study predicted that video will account for 75 percent of web traffic by 2020 [Source: Tubularinsights.com]. “That tells us that if young people are having trouble with social media today, it’s only going to get worse,” he said. Other hot topics that night were boundaries and balance. “I talked a bit about mental health, asking for help, learning how to put priorities and boundaries into their lives – learning to say know and learning to close their circle. It was a well-rounded program. To find out more about Jeff Yalden’s impactful speaking programs, visit www.jeffyalden.com. Jeff’s schedule fills up fast. To book him now for your event or school, 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.
Leading Youth Motivational Speaker Visits Oregon Coast Jeff Yalden Captivates Warrenton Grade School By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker When Jeff Yalden visited the small coastal community of Warrenton, Oregon on February 28, residents were still reeling from the death of a young man named Trevor Secord in January. A report in The Daily Astorian said that the young man was struck by a pickup truck after exiting a vehicle parked on the shoulder of the road. He was running down in the middle of the highway when it happened. “State Police are investigating whether alcohol may have been a contributing factor in his actions,” the report stated. The state of pain and loss was still evident when Yalden arrived at Warrenton Grade School to give a talk to grades 5-8, and for a workshop with faculty and staff at the end of the day. “Part of me being here is not necessarily about the loss of Trevor – but the memory of Trevor is still very raw to these kids, and this has really affected the community in incredible ways,” he said. Yalden said that one of the things he does as a speaker is to carefully talk about the loss and become one with the audience. “You are feeling their pain and you are sharing your heart,” he said. “We were able to talk a little bit about our choices and our reactions to situations – and the importance of asking for help.” He spoke to 350 kids in the gymnasium, delivering a message about life, bullying, anti-bullying, self-respect and a little bit of mental health. “My friends, don’t let your life be about then. Our life is about today. If we can’t appreciate the today and the now, we will never be grateful for what this journey is all about.” With the help of volunteers from the assembly, Yalden spoke about staying “in purpose.” “I understand that everybody’s heart is still in a lot of pain, with a lot of questions. As you go through life, there are going to be times when you are extremely hurt, sad and rejected,” he said. But the key is to get back up when life knocks you down – and this concept runs like a thread in Yalden’s messages. “In life, there are things that takes us out of purpose. You have a life to live, you have a dream to fulfill – and you are going to execute that plan. You fell down, you pick yourself up – and you get back in purpose.” Yalden spent an hour with faculty and staff, talking about teen mental health, suicide prevention and asking the right questions. “In that hour, we also supported and validated who they are and the work they do with the kids every day,” he said. Warrenton Grade School principal Tom Rogozinski had this to say about Yalden’s visit: “Jeff not only inspired the kids, [but] I think he left them with much to think about that we as a school will be able to build on and from as we build a culture that these kids walk into every day; feeling connected, feeling loved and feeling ready to do their best. Jeff left our staff with some real clear marching orders or recognizing kids at risk – and some steps that we can take to support those kids as well.” After his presentation, Yalden was off to Bend, Oregon and then back to Missouri. To find out why Jeff Yalden is North America’s Number One Youth Motivational Speaker, visit www.jeffyalden.com. Jeff’s speaking calendar fills up fast. To book him now for your school, event or organization, call 800-948-9289. TAGS: Anxiety, Attitude, Choices, Depression, Educational Speaker, Jeff Yalden, Leadership, Middle School Motivational Speaker, Middle School Speaker, Motivational Speaker for Schools, School Assemblies, Suicide, Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Speaker, Teen Mental Health Speaker, Teen Motivational Speaker, Teen Speaker, Teen Suicide, The Boom Mindset, Warrenton, Oregon, Warrenton Grade School, Youth Motivational Speaker
Jeff Yalden: Can You hear Me Now? Top Teen Motivational Speaker Heats Up Heatherwood Middle School By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker Finding out that there is a problem with a sound system just before delivering a presentation to 1000 middle schoolers can’t be the best way to start the day. But this is exactly what happened on February 27 when Jeff Yalden visited Heatherwood Middle School in Mill Creek, Washington, where he was set to talk to the assembly about mental health, anxiety and depression – and teaching teenagers how to reduce the stresses they face every day. Despite several hiccups with sound and the fact that school started late due to snow, Yalden spoke for 40 minutes in the gymnasium before speaking with to the three grade levels at Heatherwood separately. “It still went well, but here’s the thing I really want to try to explain: I know my best,” he said. “I know what I can deliver – and when I am not given the tools to be able to do my best job, that deeply affects me. The kids don’t know anything different about the presentation, so they can only go off what they are hearing for the first time.” In the assembly, Yalden stressed a simple yet powerful formula for dealing with potentially stressful situations: Stop. Think. Respond. “This means that you now have to take personal responsibility. You have to say, ‘I am responsible for my behavior. I am responsible for the choices that I make. I am responsible for how I respond.” Things started to change for the better when Yalden got the opportunity to speak to three young men about their lives. “We talked about their attitudes, their behaviors and their choices – and I tell you that was awesome. I really enjoyed that one-on-connection that I was able to make with those boys,” he said. A highlight of the day came in the form of a breakthrough with a young lady who had been struggling to the point of despondency. “The principal and I got to talking, and we took her up to the office and were able to chat with her. The counselor came in and we were really able to make great headway with this young lady. I got to work with her one-on-one. We got to find out her story, assess the situation and got to look at the big picture,” he said. It’s amazing what can happen when you push through obstacles and keep going. Yalden closed out the evening with the parent program, which had an impressive turnout of roughly 50 parents. The topic that night was teens and mental health. “We talked about what is important today with our teenagers and raising their self-esteem and how we can go about that – and the importance of our kids learning coping and problem-solving skills,” he said. He warned of the pitfalls of being “helicopter parents,” always hovering and trying to pick up the pieces of our kids’ relationships too fast. Yalden discussed the effects of social media and cell phones and admonished parents to take a more vigilant role – but he also said he wasn’t talking about taking these away either. “Parents really need to start being really proactive and monitor what their kids are doing online and with their cell phones. They need to understand all the social media platforms their kids are using,” he said, adding that our kids don’t have the emotional and mental maturity to be putting all of this stuff out there, and realizing the consequences of what they are putting out there. “One of the best things we can do is to teach our kids how to go through the struggles of life and come out on the other side. And that’s building self-esteem,” he said. To find out more about Jeff’s speaking and coaching programs, visit www.jeffyalden.com. Book Jeff now for your school or organization now by calling 800-948-9289. TAGS: Anxiety, Attitude, Choices, Depression, Educational Speaker, Heatherwood Middle School, Jeff Yalden, Leadership, Middle School Motivational Speaker, Middle School Speaker, Mill Creek, Motivational Speaker for Schools, School Assemblies, Suicide, Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Speaker, Teen Mental Health Speaker, Teen Motivational Speaker, Teen Speaker, Teen Suicide, The Boom Mindset, Youth Motivational Speaker
Leading Teen Motivational Speaker Inspires in Canada Jeff Yalden at Lakes District Secondary School By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker The second leg of teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden’s trip to British Columbia found him in the Village of Burns Lake, which is touted as the gateway to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, a protected area encompassing a jaw-dropping 3,790 square miles of Western Canadian splendor. “One of the things I really enjoy about what I do is having the opportunity to look out the windshield and see beautiful country in different parts of the world,” he said. Yalden was brought in by an organization called the Nechako area Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative [CYMHSU], which is in place to provide mental health and substance abuse support to individuals and families in British Columbia. He spoke to an assembly of grades 8-12 at Lakes District Secondary School on Thursday, February 23. “This was a very intimate session with about 500 kids. We spoke for two hours about mental health, dealing with anger, perseverance, anxiety, how to deal with your emotions, and self-esteem,” he said. Jeff was impressed with the positive vibe as soon as he arrived. “My favorite part of walking into a school is when you see the positive inspiration that surrounds them every day. I think it’s important to dress up the school and make it a home – and environment that fosters learning, love and caring – perseverance and overcoming challenges. I love it.” School staffers cited high stress levels in the 12th graders from factors like academics and peer pressure, and Yalden drew on tried-and-true topics from his motivational toolbox – including transition, resilience and mental health. “The best way to build self-esteem is to be challenged with something and to be able to work your way through it,” he said. He also urged students who felt overwhelmed to find adults that they trust and respect – and whose opinions they value – and don’t be afraid to go to them. “If you ask me, overnight success takes 15 to 20 years,” he said. He asked the students what they were willing to work hard to accomplish, and placed the responsibility directly on their shoulders. “As parents, we do the best we can but we are not perfect. Sometimes we want to give you our wisdom and experience – but ultimately this is your life. This is your dream. This is your world.” Yalden told them to be sure to write down their dreams, turn them into plans and back up those plans with consistent action. Of course, many things can threaten to take a person out of purpose – but we can get back on track by asking better questions. “Many of us deal with abuse. We deal with alcoholism, blended families, divorce and financial struggles. I get it. But I want every one of you to understand that through the struggles – the trials and tribulations – you still have a purpose and a life to live. Start at the beginning, and value yourself,” he said. Jeff Yalden has addressed more than 4000 teen audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries. Find out more at www.jeffyalden.com. Jeff’s speaking calendar fills up fast. Book him now by calling 800-948-9289. TAGS: British Columbia, Jeff Yalden, Teen Motivational Speaker, Burns Lake, Lakes District Secondary School, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative, Youth Motivational Speaker, Suicide Prevention Speaker, Parenting, Responsibility, Canada, Mental Health Awareness, Secondary School Speaker, School Assembly Speaker, Canadian Mental Health, Teen Mental Health Speaker
Top Teen Suicide Prevention Speaker Delivers in Missouri Jeff Yalden Addresses Schools, Parents in Hannibal, MO By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker On Thursday, February 16, North America’s top teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden visited Hannibal, Missouri to talk about teen suicide and suicide prevention – and in this part of the “Show Me State,” he was humbled by the people that showed up. Yalden was booked for a full day – presenting to middle school and high school students and teachers, and closed out the evening with a very well-attended parent community program. Hannibal High School lost a popular high school senior, Hannah, to suicide in 2015, just days before she was to graduate. For the middle school, Yalden spoke on topics such as keeping an open heart and fearlessness – about bullying, respect for self and others – and tried-and-true subjects like attitude and choices. Yalden was struck with the ambiance of Hannibal Middle School as soon as he walked into the foyer. “They are the Pirates, so it screams red and black with a lot of kids’ art in the front – and it’s a very enthusiastic building. That first impression is what you want to see in a school,” he said, noting the palpable sense of school spirit and pride emanating through the halls. “There was a very strong synergy in the building. I got to talk to a bunch of kids and teachers afterward,” he said. Yalden joined more than 20 people for lunch at a local eatery, Fiddlestiks Food & Spirts Company. “We had an incredible lunch with movers and shakers in the community, from the school psychologist to the superintendent [Susan Johnson], the resource officer and people from Hannibal Regional Hospital,” he said, adding that some of the folks from the foundations that brought him in were also on hand. Also, these people included Hannah’s parents and another family from Brookfield, MO who had lost a son to suicide and are brining Jeff to their community on March 7, 2017. The groups and individuals sponsoring Yalden’s visit were the Lois Eleanor Neff Foundation, Justin and Brooke Gibson, The Riedel Foundation, Early Bird Kiwanis of Hannibal, R.O. Parker, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, Casey’s General Stores and the Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success. Yalden said two families lost a child to suicide in the area within the last two years. Lunch conversation centered on making suicide prevention a priority and learning what they can do to be proactive and keep the Mental Health message moving along – Being Proactive. “It was an amazing conversation about how to sustain this and what we can do differently. It was so incredible to see this community coming together and saying, ‘what do we need to do to make this happen’ and put a plan in place. It was great,” he said. When it was time to present to Hannibal High School students, Jeff was surprised that there were no 12th graders in attendance. “That was a little bit disturbing, because the seniors were the ones that had the suicide when they were just finishing the 10th grade – but we had a great assembly regardless.” A pleasant surprise, however, was the fact that 300 parents attended the parent community program later in the evening at the Hannibal Nutrition Center. “We went two hours, talking about suicide prevention, mental health, signs and symptoms and things to look out for,” he said. “We talked about how to be an effective parent and community citizen and open up your heart about suicide and teen mental health – and know that this is real.” Jeff also talked about teen cell phone use, social media, direct and indirect verbal clues about teen suicide and follow-through. He helped Hannibal High School develop a plan about what to do in the event of a suicide. “This is a model community that is doing great things. I had an incredible visit and am very, very honored,” he said. Missouri is experiencing a rash of suicides right now. Jeff is already booked in Brookfield, MO on March 7, Bernard, MO on March 8 and will speak at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO on March 21. To find out more about Jeff Yalden and suicide prevention, visit www.jeffyalden.com To book Jeff now for your school, organization or event, call 800-948-9289. TAGS: Suicide, Teen Suicide, Copycat Suicide, Anxiety, Attitude, Choices, Depression, Hannibal, Missouri, Educational Speaker, High School Assemblies, Suicide Prevention Speaker, High School Motivational Speaker, High School Speaker, Hannibal High School, Hannibal Middle School, Hannibal School District, Leadership, Hannibal Regional Hospital Mental Health, Hannibal Nutrition Center, Middle School Motivational Speaker, Middle School Speaker, Motivational Speaker for Schools, Teen Mental Health Speaker, Teen Motivational Speaker, Teen Speaker, Youth Motivational Speaker, Suicide Prevention
Top Teen Motivational Speaker on Suicide Prevention
By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Teen Motivational Speaker
What if we knew we could have prevented a friend’s suicide but didn’t do or say anything?Meet Jeff Yalden – Teen Suicide Prevention Crisis Intervention Expert. This video shows Jeff in a community that had 12 teen suicides in one year, including four in six weeks. Jeff is today’s leading authority on suicide prevention and teen mental health awareness. That heartbreaking question is one that has been weighing on the heart of teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden after the suicide of Lincoln High School senior Quai Horton in Des Moines, Iowa on February 7, just a week after Jeff spoke at the school. Another question can be asked in tandem with the first one.
What is the cost of losing a teenager to suicide?As far as Jeff is concerned, the true cost can’t be measured – and tragedies like these tend to have a ripple effect, sending waves of despair, anger, grief and helplessness farther afield than anybody can imagine at the time. But Yalden has long been a proponent of living in the now, and clearly now is all we have. And now is enough. “Be proactive today and do what you can to prevent a suicide from happening, or you will end up reacting and wishing you had done something,” he said. Obviously, this is easier said than done – especially if a person takes their life without any warning or without any signs pointing to his or her intentions. “Many people who commit suicide do so without letting on they are thinking about it or planning it,” said Dr. Michael Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in a 2012 Harvard Health Blog article by Patrick J. Skerrett, former Executive Editor of Harvard Health. At that time, Skerrett wrote that “more than 100 Americans commit suicide every day. It’s the tenth leading cause of death overall; third among 15- to 24-year-olds and fourth among 25-to 44-year-olds.” For teens, suicide is right behind accidents/unintentional injuries and homicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. But most people will at least drop a clue. Suicide is not the answer. Watch Jeff’s video here: In a list of youth suicide facts and myths, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network said that “people who are thinking about suicide usually find some way of communicating their pain to others – often by speaking indirectly about their intentions. Most suicidal people will admit to their feelings if questioned directly.” For teens, social media is often the preferred platform for this pain. This was true in the case of Quai Horton – and this was summed up in Jeff’s blog post on February 9: “What Yalden found the most disturbing about this young man’s suicide was that there were very direct verbal clues on his Facebook page indicating his intentions – and yet nobody said a word about it.” But make no mistake. Somebody saw these clues. Shortly after Jeff posted a video to YouTube about Horton and how sorry he was about the tragedy, the comments started to come in. One person told Yalden to kill himself. Another said he knew Quai was hurting and told adults about it. The veracity of the latter cannot be proven because yet another individual alluded that this was not the case. “We got help for the kid who told me to kill myself,” Yalden said. We will likely never know if anybody really stepped up, but the takeaway here is that at least a handful of Horton’s fellow students knew that he was in a bad place. But if anything, Yalden doesn’t believe anybody went far enough to bring any of this to light. “Your friend is hurting. You are 15 or 16 years old and you might call your friend every day, but you cannot break through the struggles that people are feeling mentally and emotionally. You don’t know how. An assessment needs to be done to find out if we need to treat this person. It’s really as simple as that,” he said. An administrator at Lincoln High School told Yalden recently that Horton would sit alone every day at lunch – and he would usually go up to him to see how he was doing. “Quai was a quiet dude, and there is nothing really wrong with sitting alone, but where sitting alone raises a red flag is that we don’t know the child’s mental state,” Yalden said, adding that sometimes a student might sit alone because they might simply be having a bad day or getting ready for an exam. “I think we should visit with them. If a child is consistently sitting alone, I would say to students and educators to just go and sit with that person and draw them out on any topic that might interest them.” Yalden said that the symptoms for suicide are very similar to that of depression, and he has a three-point theory about teen suicide:
- I am alone.
- I am a burden and a liability to other people.
- I have the desire for suicide.
Suicide: The Forever Decision By Roger Yale for Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker On February 7, 2017 – not even a week after Jeff spoke at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa – he got the news that high school senior Quai Horton had taken his life. “I have a picture of him about five feet away from where I was speaking,” he said, adding that he also conducted an in-service training for teachers at the high school about mental health and teen suicide. Days later, it became a reality when Horton made his “forever decision.” “I want to offer my prayers, thoughts and condolences to all of the classmates, students, staff members and teachers – the Des Moines community – and most of all to the parents and close friends of our friend, ‘Q,” he said in a video message about Horton. What Yalden found the most disturbing about this young man’s suicide was that there were very direct verbal clues on his Facebook page indicating his intentions – and yet nobody said a word about it. “I want to tell you something: I spent some time on Q’s Facebook page – and from January 26 to Monday [February 6] – what breaks my heart are that the signs were very direct and very clear,” he said. There was more than a week for someone to come forward, and yet nobody said anything. This must stop. “When you have a friend or you know someone is hurting and the signs are real clear like they were – my friends, you’ve got to say something. You’ve got to tell a trusted adult in your life. If worse comes to worst and you don’t know who to call – you call 911 – you call the police.” Because there is a concern about “copycat suicides” – it is of utmost importance for the community to remain vigilant for the telltale signs. Jeff has long believed that suicide is a permanent action to a temporary problem, and his theory on teen suicide has three components:
- They feel like they are alone.
- They feel like they’re are a burden to someone.
- They have a desire for suicide.