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.
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