To book Jeff for your school, event or conference, 1-800-948-9289You can learn more about Jeff Yalden by visiting his website – www.JeffYalden.com. You can also learn more about Jeff’s Suicide Prevention Online Course for School Communities and Parents, Jeff Yalden University, and follow Jeff on YouTube and Social Media by clicking on the links below: Online Suicide Prevention Course for School Communities Facebook Page School Resources Join Mailing List: Text YALDEN to 66866
The Catholic Church and Suicide Prevention?Holy Spirit Parish at Geist Catholic Church invited teen mental health and suicide prevention expert, Jeff Yalden to Fishers, Indiana to speak truth to parents and the congregation about today’s youth and the suicide epidemic plaguing our country. For more than two hours, Jeff mesmerized the nearly 500 people that came from all over the outskirts of Indianapolis to hear his straight talk about today’s teens growing up in the digital age – and the potential adverse effect these devices are having on them. Jeff asked one question before speaking: “What is the Catholic religion’s stance on suicide among its congregation?” Jeff wanted to make sure that he was going to be safe talking about teen suicide in the church, and it turned out that he was. His point of contact and the pastor, Father Dan, were incredible human beings – and they sat with him for an hour before people started arriving. They had a great discussion about God, the church, the people, faith and so much more. “I was so honored and excited after spending this time with Pastor Dan and his leadership team,” Jeff said. The Catholic Church has changed over the years when it comes to suicide. According to theology of the Catholic Church, suicide is considered a grave matter, an element required for mortal sin. They believed that one’s life is the property of God and that one’s body is a gift to the world. To destroy life is to wrongly assert dominion over what God wanted for his child – and this act of taking one’s life was held as despair over salvation.
Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. – Catechism of the Catholic Church Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”As of most recently, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church indicates that the person who committed suicide may not always be fully right in their mind, and thus not 100 percent morally culpable: “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.” Theological author Jonathan MS Pierce puts it this way: “The Catholic Church prays for those who have committed suicide, knowing that Christ shall judge the deceased fairly and justly. The Church also prays for the close relations of the deceased, that the loving and healing touch of God will comfort those torn apart by the impact of the suicide.” In days past, people who made the forever decision to commit suicide were denied a Christian funeral. That’s beyond harsh – and Pope Pius X said, “In the Fifth Commandment God forbids suicide, because man is not the master of his own life no more than of the life of another. Hence the Church punishes suicide by deprivation of Christian burial.” Today, thankfully, it’s understood that God is ultimately the final judge of people places and things – and the Catholic Church has lightened up on its stance on suicide. It’s understood today that God ultimately is the final judge of people, places, and things and thus the Catholic Religion has lightened up its stance on Suicide. National Suicide Prevention Week takes place in September in the United States – where mental health professionals and advocates share tips and advice on suicide prevention – and lay out warning signs, symptoms, myths, facts and more in the hope of stemming the tide and preventing suicide.
Mr. Jarrid Wilson . . . Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Dies by SuicideIn September, pastor and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson took his life. He was only 30. Just a few hours before his forever decision, he tweeted about Jesus’ compassion for the depressed and suicidal: “Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that.” This was his last and final tweet before he chose to take his life, leaving behind many fans and followers, a wife and two children. This act of selfishness really hurt Jeff and made him very bitter about who advocates for mental health – and especially those who would also call themselves pastors. Jeff is very protective of this conversation – the conversation around suicide and about eliminating the stigma surrounding it – and feels strongly that whomever advocates must be vigilant about doing the work themselves. If someone with a sizable following is sending a message of hope, that person’s responsibility to others is great. If that person decides to die by suicide, this sends a more powerful message than the original one, the implication being that it was all for naught. “It’s been a tough month.” says Jeff. Wilson had been a long-time advocate for mental health. He and his wife founded “Anthem of Hope,” a Christian outreach for the depressed and suicidal. His death followed that of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, another young, vibrant evangelical pastor and mental health advocate who committed suicide last year.
Teen Suicide is an Epidemic and The Catholic Church has a ResponsibilityThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] reports that suicide rates among working-age Americans (from 16-64) 34 percent between 2000 and 2016. Among Americans aged 10-24, the spike was even more dramatic – CDC data shows a 50 percent increase in suicides in this group between 2000 and 2017. The suicides of these two pastors highlight this concerning upward trend in suicide, especially among young people – even among those who are part of a Christian community. During his visit with the community at Holy Spirit Parish at Geist Catholic Church, Jeff talked about some things our youth are dealing with today that young people didn’t deal with as few as ten years ago. A key point was the fact that today’s youth are connected 24/7/365 and constantly stressed and anxious – living in a world where they are always comparing their lives to those of others. Jeff says in his book, “Teen Suicide: The WHY Behind Today’s Suicide Epidemic” . . . that if you spend more than four to five hours a day on social media or your smartphone you are 70 percent more likely to have major depression in your life. Jeff’s book doesn’t get into the psychological sciences and Catholic spirituality, philosophy and theology. Jeff wrote the book as today’s youth think, reason, and act. It is straightforward and to the point, written in a concrete manner that makes it and easy to understand the depth of teens, their brokenness and why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling. Certainly, one of the driving factors of an increase in suicide among teens and young adults is their constant connectedness to the world through smartphones and the social media platforms, combined with a lack of greater meaning in their lives. According to a 2015 article from the peer-reviewed research journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, “frequent social media use in children and teenagers is associated with poor psychological functioning, as it limits their daily face-to-face interactions, impairing their ability to keep and maintain meaningful relationships.” “The lack of coping skills and problem-solving skills make it very difficult for today’s youth who live in the here and the now to understand that not all things are taken care of in the present moment. Our youth don’t understand that today,” says Yalden. One of the biggest suicide prevention tools that communities of faith can provide, Yalden says, is being full communities of faith, where people feel connected and non-judged, valued, and validated as whole people. Our Churches have to be more involved with families, our youth and more present in our communities – but in non-judgmental ways. Every child needs to have a significant and trusted adult they can reach out to and our churches are filled with so many loving and kind people. Our churches are a great place where a difference can be made immediately. Jeff sends a special thank-you to Holy Spirit Parish at Geist Catholic Church and to Pastor Dan and his staff for having this conversation. If you are interested in Jeff coming to your Church or School Community, please visit www.JeffYalden.com. Purchase you copy of Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic.
“I am alone,” and “I am a burden.”
And what this means is…
The “I am alone” – which is, as Joiner says, a “thwarted belongingness” – represents a belief on the part of the individual that she or she does not have any meaningful relationships.
“I am a burden” – which is a “perceived burdensomeness” represents a belief on the part of the individual that he or she does not make any notable contributions to the world. They think that they serve as a liability.So, when you have the “I am alone” and the “I am a burden,” – that kind of creates the DESIRE FOR SUICIDE – which becomes the capability for suicide over a period of time, and Joiner here again – the “capability for suicide is acquired largely through repeated exposure to painful or fearsome experiences. This results in habituation and, in turn, a higher tolerance for pain and a sense of fearlessness in the face of death.” Habituation is a fancy term for getting used to something. I became a fan of Dr. Joiner as I got into researching the topic of suicide – but more specifically Teen Suicide. When you get to the “I am alone” part, you are like, WHY? Why do teens feel alone today? Why do teens feel like they are a burden – and that they serve as a liability? And then – why do they just feel so hopeless? In all my work in the trenches with teens and talking to teens, I have come to believe that even the most troubled teens don’t want to die. I think it’s that they can’t find a solution to their problems – that the solution is so far out there that they can’t solve it and move forward. Remember: Today’s teens live in the here and the now. Teens don’t know what they don’t know – and there is no way for them to know what the future can hold. And today’s teenagers – the Generation Z kids born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s – are the first teenagers to not know what’s it like to grow up without a smartphone. Let’s look at this: As much as we say suicide is because of this or suicide is because of that – it’s bullying, it’s cyber-bullying, it’s this, it’s that – suicide is never the result of one thing – but one thing can certainly be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The reality is that 90 percent of teen suicides go back to mental illness – and if you think about today’s teens – two of the biggest challenges that we have are coping skills and problem-solving skills. In my work, I find that that teenagers have a really tough time communicating – sharing their feelings – trusting in the circle of adults in their life – and so – when you ask me, “Hey Jeff – what is the greatest thing that you can give teenagers today,” I don’t even hesitate. I say, “self-esteem.” But where does self-esteem come from? Self-esteem comes from being challenged and overcoming those challenges. I think self-esteem comes from social interaction. It comes from involvement with your friends and family – relationships. Self-esteem comes from being outside – coping through life – problem-solving through your challenges. Self-esteem is something we build every day as a result of being more active. I think three things are really important to a teen’s mental health:
1) SLEEP 2) NUTRITION – Today’s teenagers are consuming over 200 grams more sugar a day than they should be consuming in a 24-hour period – and sugar is directly related to depression. 3) MORE ACTIVITY/MORE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENTThese three things play a significant role in one’s mental health. Some say that Generation Z – the young people born after 1995 – are more likely to experience mental health issues than their Millennial predecessors. Today’s adolescents are at even greater risk of mental health problems – and so you keep asking the questions “Why are today’s teens worse off than the Millennials?” And then, “Why are today’s adolescents in worse shape than Generation Z?” Why… Let’s look at 2012. That is the time when smartphones surged into the lives of our teens – and with that, in 2012 – over 50 percent of our teens had smartphones, so they started to get more invested in social media, YouTube, the Internet, group texting – In 2015 – they say over 73 percent of our teens had access to a smartphone. Today – 2018 – over 90 percent of our kids have access to a smartphone. From 2012-2018 – in those six years, the smartphone became something that was very much more common in the lives of our teens. Not just more common, but more widely-used for longer periods of time. From 2010-2015, surveys said that 35 percent of teens felt alone and a burden. Feeling alone and a burden, going back to Thomas Joiner’s theory from 2005 – well, those are symptoms of suicide – and they are symptoms of suicide today. They even said that suicide surged 23 percent – and teen suicide surged 31 percent – and that’s where we are at. These are alarming numbers causing great concern – and we are asking why. Let’s not just jump to the conclusion that, “Whoa – Jeff is blaming this on smartphones.” Hold on. I just want to continue asking why. Why is this? Moving forward – 2012-2018 – that’s six years. More teens were depressed. Greater anxiety. Trouble communicating. Withdrawal. Social isolation – hopelessness – and seeing suicide as the solution to their problems. Again – why? All signs point to the sudden ascendance of the smartphone. As more and more teens gained access to a smartphone, more and more teens were feeling depressed – and suicide kept increasing in great numbers. It’s important to note here that these same surveys say that from 2010-2015 – the time doing homework barely budged. Why is this important? It’s important because it rules out academic pressure as the cause of teen suicide. So – here’s my theory: Smartphone? If you are on your smartphone four to five hours a day or more, you are 70 percent more likely to have mental health issues. Mental health professionals say that one to two hours a day is the safe zone. Going by these numbers – I think it’s pretty safe to say that time spent online affects a teen’s overall mental health. Right. OK. Now – could it be that instead of time online causing depression – maybe depression causes more time online, one might ask. And so – these studies show that this is unlikely. My theory: Depression might cause people to spend more time online – but why did depression increase so much after 2012? More teens became depressed for an unknown reason, and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.
WHAT’S MISSINGYou might say that online time doesn’t affect mental health directly – but it still adversely affects mental health in indirect ways – especially if time online interrupts time for other activities. That’s that social engagement – that’s the other activities with friends and family – less smartphones, social media – more time problem-solving, coping, and one-on-one communication. Again – going back to self-esteem – it’s safe to say that a teen spending time online interrupts time for activities where they could be building their self-esteem – (what I just mentioned: coping skills, problem-solving, communication) – life skills that are essential to their growth as a young adult. I hope you are following me here. Teens spend much less time today interacting with friends and family. Without interaction, our moods start to suffer, and depression follows. Going back to Dr. Joiner – “I am alone – I am a burden.” Those two things lead to sadness. They lead to depression – and the “I am alone – I am a burden” – isolation is also a big factor in suicide ideation – better known as suicidal thoughts. Let’s look at the amount of time being alone – the amount of time where you feel you are a burden. That brings the desire for suicide – Dr. Joiner’s theory is making sense – more so today – and the capability for suicide grows out of repeated exposure to painful or fearsome experiences Now – this is starting to make a lot more sense when we look at time online – teens are more likely to be depressed, while making friends and engaging socially and in-person builds their self-esteem. In 2012, this is what started to happen: Online versus in-person social engagement. Online harms mental health. In-person social engagement benefits mental health. Remember: 90 percent of suicides. At the core, at the foundation are mental health issues. I already mentioned that proper sleep and nutrition are a huge benefit to the mental well-being of our young people. They also need to get more involved. This is good for their self-esteem. Is this research definitive enough? Maybe not. Is it too soon to recommend less screen time? The solution seems to be clear: If less screen time can help lessen your child’s chances of falling into depression, then the danger of doing nothing can be high. Think about the possible consequences. If we do nothing, then we’re taking a huge risk. A couple more things before I wrap this up: Going back to Dr. Joiner’s theory: “I am alone” is like, “I don’t have meaningful relationships. “I am a burden.” This is about expectations. Today’s teens have greater stress. They have the expectations that might not be realistic. They have the fear of not knowing who they are or what they want to do. That’s the “I am a burden.” And the desire for suicide – that’s the pain lasting and building up. Also – the Dopamine effect from the social media, the Internet and YouTube – it’s like – “I want more, I want more, I want more…” When you are spending four, five hours a day on your smartphone, the Dopamine effect is more and more and more – versus one-to-two-hours – you have less of the “I want more, I want more.” So what does all of this lead to? Our teens are on 24/7 – 365. This is leading to depression, isolation – a feeling that they are not worthy. They want to be validated with “likes” on social media – and social isolation is arguably the strongest and most reliable predictor of suicidal thoughts. Social isolation leads to loneliness, social withdrawal, living alone with little social support – living in non-intact families. All of this really isn’t helping. I think it comes down to vigilant parenting, less time online, more social and emotional learning – mindfulness practice – meditation – reducing the stigma of mental health, and letting people know that it is OK to ask for help. To wrap this up: Self-esteem: Again, social interaction, sleep, health, exercise, nutrition, activity. Self-esteem: Involvement, communication, coping skills, problem-solving skills. Self-esteem: You’re not afraid to ask for help. Social Isolation: “I am alone. I am a burden.” When our young people are interacting, they are learning. They’ve got friends. They are figuring themselves out – their identities – they are growing – they have trust – companionship – problem-solving and coping skills – laughter and better communication. A couple of things, lastly – Smartphone. Addiction. Isolation. Sadness. Loneliness. Lack of growth, The Dopamine effect. Diminished life skills. It makes sense that Joiner’s “I am alone” / “I am a burden” is a problem. You see where social media is really adding to that. And then the desire for suicide that emerges from suicidal thoughts stemming from repeated exposure to painful or fear-inducing experiences that these kids go through. Again – I don’t think students want to die. I think they live in the here and the now – and so they feel like they can never reach solutions to their problems and move on with their lives. And with the here and the now – everything is just so readily available to them. I mean, you text somebody and you get an immediate response. You pick up your smartphone and someone is automatically there. You go to the bank – and an ATM spits out cash. I think the biggest problems with our youth today are the lack of coping skills and problem-solving skills. If we could focus more on social and emotional learning in our schools, I think we would do an awesome job of getting our kids to spend less time on their smartphones and more time interacting – I think that would make a huge life-changing difference. For more information about Jeff Yalden, go HERE. Find out about Jeff’s new nonprofit, THE JEFF YALDEN FOUNDATION To book Jeff now, call (800) 948-9289
Teen Suicide . . . Expectations to be #1 VideoTeen Mental Health expert and Suicide Prevention Trainer, Jeff Yalden talks about society expectations and how it’s impacting our teens in a negative way leading to more and more teen suicides. It’s an epidemic, America. Suicide Prevention Training Online Course for Teachers (Click Here) – Be a lighthouse, instead of a helicopter. Be reliably there for your child, but committed to helping him or her learn to ride the waves. “Children who feel secure, without feeling controlled, have less to rebel against in the teen years and may be more comfortable managing their own lives as adults,” he says. – Praise your child’s effort, not the outcome. A child who is only praised for the outcome, such as solving a puzzle, may become afraid of causing disappointment compared to the child praised for what they did to get to where they could solve the puzzle. – Speak in sentences with “and” instead of “but” when disciplining your child. Praise children for what they did correctly “and” add your expectations to correct what they failed to do. – When your child is sad, anxious or overly sensitive, see their feelings as strength that will someday help them. Empathy and feelings are not enemies, Jeff says. – Tackle your own ambivalence about getting help before asking your child to seek help. They will read your mixed emotions and risk becoming more ashamed or resistant to help. – Develop a code word that your child can use when they need to leave a situation. Allow the child to shift the blame to the “mean” mom or dad as a reason to leave. – Check in with your children when they get home. If they know they will need to talk (and could be smelled or sensed), it can help them create their own boundaries. – Use dinnertime to be a role model to your children. Talk about your most embarrassing moment, the biggest problem you faced at work today and how you overcame it, and what went well and what did not go well that day. For more information about Jeff Yalden and suicide prevention in your community, please visit www.JeffYaldenFoundation.com.
MENTAL ILLNESSWhile the factors I will be addressing here are all driving contributors to teen suicide, often the underlying issue is one of mental illness. Most teens who attempt suicide do so because of depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. These disorders amplify the pain a teen may feel. It is because of this that every suicidal teen should be treated by a medical professional. Remember this: Teens attempt or succeed in suicide not because of a desire to die, but, rather, in an attempt to escape a bad situation and/or painful feelings. It is rare that only a single event leads to suicide. A single event can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but it is quite rare a single event prompts a suicide attempt. By helping a teen turn around a bad situation or by teaching her or him how better to deal with painful feelings, we can defeat the causes of teen suicide. Most times, this requires professional help by a doctor or a psychotherapist and may also involve the teen’s school, such as in cases of teen bullying.
LONELINESSBeing a teenager is one of the most difficult phases of life. Many teenagers feel alone, isolated or somehow set apart – but they refuse to admit that they need help. They need help. They really do. Everybody needs help at times – whether it’s obvious or not, and whether we want it or not. Most of the time, we have convinced ourselves that we can manage everything on our own, but in reality, we can’t. When they feel alone, what do teenagers do? They open up their phones, computers, tablets – fire up the Internet and social media platforms or text a friend, hoping that someone does care about them – and the desire is strong that others will appreciate them for who they are. The reality is that some people appreciate you for who you are, but others simply fake it. How can you know the difference? Parents don’t understand teen problems even if they say they do. The Internet, social media, texting and YouTube is where they go to find something – the passion that they lost or the happiness that they need. It’s not that our teens think happiness is available on the Internet, but it’s a distraction from what they’re feeling. This distraction is very useful when they are feeling lonely. Imagine that they go on the web and find someone their same age, dealing with the same issues that they are. It’s comforting for them to know that they are not the only one having that particular problem. You can see their point of view. Now they’ve made friends – virtual friends that they wish were real and were right beside them. But they aren’t. Why is this? Teens say, “Why can’t we have long term and lasting friends? People talk behind our backs, especially the ones we thought were our friends.” It’s a sad world that teens say they’re living in. Adolescence is always an unsettling time, with many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that accompany this stage of life.
SCREEN TIMEResearch suggests hours upon hours of time in front of phones, on computer screens and tablets might worsen depression and increase thoughts of suicide. Here is the deal: Depressive symptoms are more prominent in teens who spend too much time on their devices. But how much is too much? More than four a day is alarming. Ideally, we’d like to see a maximum of two hours a day of screen time for our teens. That is considered the safe zone. Nearly half of teens who got five or more hours of screen time each day had experienced thoughts of suicide or prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness. That’s nearly double that of teens who spent fewer than an hour in front of a screen. Although we can’t blame smartphones for the increase in mental health issues in teens, I will tell you this: Smartphones and social media are by far the biggest changes in teens’ lives in the last five years. Coincidentally, over the last five years, the number of teen suicides has spiked, and this is staggering. What is further alarming is that very young children are spending triple the amount of time on phones and tablets than they did even four years ago.
APPEARANCES VERSUS REALITYTeens don’t let change happen, because when something is different, they want to change it back to normal, but what is normal today? Young people struggle with having to look good for other people, and when they do it to make a positive change for themselves, they run the risk of being judged or ridiculed. They’re not accepted for who they really are. Why We Feel Alone:
- Family problems (most of the pain comes from family issues)
- No real friends (just faces that pretend to be)
- No acceptance in society (as a whole or even in smaller groups like schools…)
- Not satisfied with their life
- Nobody understands them
- Not accepted for their choices (music artists/genre, fashion style, personality, sexual orientation, etc.)
- Prejudices (some people find it fun to criticize you)
- Rumors (it’s difficult to stop them)
- Being afraid to speak up (sharing of opinions becomes difficult, and you get trapped by your own self)
HOPELESS & HELPLESSMost teens interviewed after a suicide attempt say that feelings of hopelessness and helplessness prompted them to try to take their lives. Suicidal teens often feel like they are in situations that have no solutions. They see no way out but death. Teens often feel they lack the power and control to change their situations. Other emotional causes come from trying to escape feelings of pain, rejection, hurt, being unloved, victimization or loss – that their feelings are unbearable and will never end. They think the only way of escape is suicide.
BEING A BURDEN & FAILED EXPECTATIONSUnrealistic academic, social, or family expectations can create a strong sense of rejection and can lead to deep disappointment. When things go wrong at school or at home, teens often overreact. Many young people feel that life is not fair or that things “never go their way.” They feel stressed out and confused. To make matters worse, teens are bombarded by conflicting messages from parents, friends and society at large. Today’s teens see more of what life has to offer — both good and bad — on television, at school, in magazines and on the Internet. Dealing with Adolescent Pressures When teens feel down, there are ways they can cope with these feelings to avoid serious depression. All of these suggestions help develop a sense of acceptance and belonging that is so important to adolescents.
- Try to make new friends.Healthy relationships with peers are central to a teen’s self-esteem and provide an important social outlet.
- Participate in sports, job, school activities or hobbies.Staying busy helps teens focus on positive activities rather than negative feelings, behaviors or peer pressure.
- Join organizations that offer programs for young people.There are myriad social programs geared to the needs of teens to help develop additional interests.
- Ask a trusted adult for help.When problems are too much to handle alone, teens should not be afraid to ask for help, but adults need to be present for teens without lecturing or making them feel that their feelings aren’t valued.
SITUATIONSSituations often drive the emotional causes of suicide. Bullying, cyber bullying, abuse, a detrimental home life, loss of a loved one or even a severe breakup can be contributing causes of teen suicide. Often, many of these situations occur together to cause suicidal feelings and behaviors. Suicide is rarely the result of one factor.
GRAPHIC MEDIAIt’s amazing how much information our teens have access to on the Internet – some of which can be traumatizing. In addition to cyber bullying which is a major problem today, kids can now easily access information about how to hurt themselves or how to harm others. Today’s media continues to become more sophisticated and graphic, exposing our teens to many potentially negative and dangerous influences than their parents could ever have encountered a generation ago.
BULLYING AND CYBER-BULLYINGAny form of bullying, whether face to face or online is known to be connected to depression and suicidal behaviors in our teens.
THE DESIRE TO DIEWhile I don’t think teens want to die, I think they don’t know how to ask for help, which could lead them to the only other option they believe is available to them – Death by suicide! This saddens me the most because I think asking for help should be as easy as asking any other question. Also, I receive quite a few messages saying, “Jeff, I’m not afraid to die, but give me a reason to live that is greater than my desire to not want to live.” WOW! Today’s young people think deep. Let me leave you with this: Many parents don’t acknowledge that their child is struggling. Mental Health isn’t an option for many families, and this makes it harder for our schools to help. Many school counselors then don’t have those teens on their radar, because they don’t know what they are going through. How do you expect our schools to help when they’re not aware, and we’re dealing with parents who say they will take care of their problem at home?
THE STIGMAA large part of the work we are all responsible for is challenging the stigma that surrounds teen mental health – AND ELIMINATING IT ONCE AND FOR ALL.
THE BOTTOM LINETeens need adult guidance more than ever to understand all the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing. When teens’ moods disrupt their ability to function on a day-to-day basis, it may indicate a serious emotional or mental disorder that needs attention — adolescent depression. Take action immediately. Do something. Getting help is OK! Mental illness is an economic issue that is quickly becoming the greatest public health crisis of our time. We must take responsibility, and a large part of that responsibility lies in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and talking about teen suicide. This is an epidemic that is alarming and getting worse. Thank you for watching this video! If you are interested in me visiting your school community, please visit www.JeffYalden.com or my non-profit foundation www.JeffYaldenFoundation.com.
IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELPWe need to teach our young people coping skills and problem-solving skills. My friends, this is a parenting issue, but I think education needs to change. We need to focus more on social and emotional learning. We need to focus on and really build the self-esteem of our children and prepare them for life’s challenges, obstacles and situations. We need to give them the tools to be successful in life. In the meantime, we need adequate mental health care and counseling. We also need more involved parents. We need to teach our young people that it is OK to ask for help without feeling intimidated or wrong for asking. But here’s what I am seeing all too much: When suicide happens, we’re left reacting. We are emotionally reacting. Parents and community are looking to place blame on the school, the administration, or the teachers. “It’s bullying,” it’s that reason, this happened or that happened. “You’re not doing this…” STOP! Suicide is never the result of one thing. I will say that one thing can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but suicide is never the result of one thing. Also, no administrator is ever given a certificate on how to handle a suicide – whether that suicide is on campus or off campus – whether it happens in the building, outside the building – whether it is an incoming student that is relatively new to the school community or it’s a popular student athlete, adored by everyone. No student loss or suicide is ever the same. They are all different, and how they are handled isn’t really anyone’s business because the school administrator and his or her team has to think about two things – what is in the best interest of the students, and what is in the best interest of the teachers and staff members. Our job as parents is to support their decisions and accept them – especially now. Our job is to rally together and support the school, the teachers, and the administration – not just when we have loss, but every day. Our kids ask two questions, and whether you are a teacher, a coach, a parent or anyone that works with youth – we need to answer these two questions: 1) Can I trust you? 2) Do you care about me? These two questions are the cornerstone of every trusted relationship. Parents – if your if your child needs a trusted adult immediately because they are distraught and emotionally suffering more so than ever before – are you that trusted adult they would go to first? You are either saying “I don’t know,” or “probably not.”
BE THAT TRUSTED ADULTThis is a problem. Parenting today’s young people is a different game than it ever was before. Today, I would never tell a child that I am disappointed in them. The point I am trying to make here is that kids are a parent’s responsibility. Parents need to support the schools, the teachers and the staff – and our teachers and staff need to support our parents. We all need to do what is best to teach, to educate, to inspire and to encourage our youth. We all need to be trusted adults where our kids feel safe, so that they can open up to us without fear of being lectured, judged or even disappointing us. Let me tell you about teen suicide today. There are three reasons why teens choose to end their lives: 1) They feel alone. 2) They feel that they are a burden. 3) They have the desire to end it all. Let me tell you something else: The students that are on the school’s radar get help and they are taken care of. The students that aren’t asking for help are not on the school’s radar. They are the ones we find out about – and as counselors and teachers, we say, “I didn’t know.” How do we help those that aren’t asking for help? We need to do a better job to teach our kids that speaking up and saying something is the right thing to do, because our kids are on the front lines, and they find out first. Our teens want to talk to someone that understands them – someone that understands what they are going through today. They don’t want to be lectured. They want to be listened to and validated that their feelings and emotions are normal. We all need to do a better job, from our government, to our teachers and coaches, and most importantly, our parents. Our teens need to also do a much better job of asking for help when they need help. I can’t emphasize enough, my friends: It’s OK to ask for help.
SUGGESTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDYoung people: I’d like to invite you to open your heart that you have trusted adults wanting to be there to help you answer life’s toughest questions. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. You matter. Don’t ever think you’re alone. You matter. Don’t ever feel that you are a burden to your family or society. Parents: I need you to know that our youth today are hurting more than you can imagine – and starting earlier to feel emotions than we ever felt our own emotions when we were growing up. It’s almost like society is taking over. Parenting a child has become more difficult, with less parental influence and control. The speed of pain for a child is instant – almost as fast as turning on a light bulb. Bring the family and community priorities back. Remember things like values and morals, kindness and community pride. Love and support our schools and our youth. I challenge you to volunteer, sponsor, and donate. Give from your heart. And whatever rumors might be going around – let’s not participate. Again – suicide is never the result of one thing. Talk to your children honestly. Be careful about sugar-coating the truth, because they know so much more today than we ever did. For all adults, remember this: It takes a village to raise our children. And remember the two questions our children ask every adult in their lives: Can I trust you? Do you care about me? Be approachable so that our children know that they can safely come and talk to you, and that you are not going to judge them for their questions and thoughts. Also know that all our teachers and our school communities are hurting too. Reach out and show your support. A quick message to our teachers, staff and coaches: Thank you. Remember that you make a difference every single day. So many questions yet in many cases there are so few answers – but we are all responsible, and we need to move forward together for our youth and for each other. Think about what is in the best interest of our community. Let’s come together and respect how the school handles this on their end; the decisions need to be made, based on a comfortable balance – a comfortable balance compassionately meeting the needs of our students, their staff, their teachers and the community as a whole – while preserving the ability of the school to fulfill its primary purpose of education. This is a very sad time – a time that affects all of us. It doesn’t have to define our year, though. I’m so, so sorry and I wish I can say more. My friends, suicide and mental health are becoming an economic issue, and we need all of you to speak up. This is the greatest crisis of our time. In the words of a friend of mine: “Choose life. Choose love. Choose you.” I love you, my friends – and I am sorry for your losses. Stay beautiful, Perry Township – and I know you quite well, too. I’m sending prayers and thoughts to all of you. If you are interested in me visiting your school community, please go to www.jeffyalden.com or my nonprofit, www.jeffyaldenfoundation.com