Today, September 8, 2019, was their 10th Annual Suicide Prevention Walk and they invited me to be their keynote speaker and also to come for the week to work with the local schools in the county.
I’m not going to lie. Today wasn’t easy. I am not exactly why. I have been a part of many suicide prevention and mental health awareness walks and I enjoy them. Enjoy them probably isn’t the right way to describe how I feel about them. I enjoy being present and doing my part to give hope, hugs, and healing to the hearts of people who’ve experienced loss by suicide. I understand the pain and my 28 years working with teens, school communities and families helps me to give some insight, say, “I am sorry”, and to just be someone that can be compassionate and empathetic to those who’ve experienced this unthinkable pain.
I took a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Myrtle Beach to Pittsburgh and arrived in DuBois early enough to do my pre-routine and get centered. I take these days very seriously, and have a great responsibility to these families. I arrived, met people, got set up, prayed, got my head right, and the usual.
I was the keynote speaker and the 400-500 people were spread out in the stands. I had a great sound system. The venue was great. The amount of professionalism and support was amazing. I was ready, but then the singers started with the song, “Stay.” That got me.
You can’t personalize these days and allow yourself to get caught up in your emotions, but it’s hard not to. I want to be real. I want to be present. I want to hear their stories. The question I always ask though is this, “What is it that families or friends are needing from a day such as this?” Do I make sense?
What do their hearts need? Do they want to come and do their part to be advocates for mental health? Do they come because this is closure for them? What is it? I don’t know and I don’t think I will ever know. For each family, I bet it is different. Whatever it is I hope that each family gets whatever their heart is in need of on this day. This day is about the family and the friends who’ve lost someone to suicide. For me, it’s about me just being present and being able to do whatever it is I can to show my support.
Why was it hard though? I don’t know, but it was. There were a lot of people. I met one family who lost their son 17 years ago. I met another who lost their son last year. I struggled with the different stories, and families were coming together because they’ve all experienced the same pain that very few people will ever understand. I struggled too, because as a keynote speaker, was I supposed to heal their hearts and give them closure? I can’t do that. I’m not God and frankly each person has to go through their own grieving.
The struggle was real, but I did my best. I didn’t have any expectations other than to show up and do my best - to bring my heart and share as a person that is diagnosed with mental illness. I didn’t want to get deep. I was speaking outside, and I didn’t have the ability to really connect my heart to theirs in a football stadium. But none of that mattered, I thought. I just wanted to share a little and say, “It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to not be okay and not feel comfortable talking about it.” I think I did that.
The walk started. I took pictures, talked with families and individuals and listened to their stories. It hurt my heart. I gave hugs. I appreciated the many people that came up to me and thanked me for sharing.
I did what I do. I then watched the raffles and said good-byes.
It’s not about me. It’s about being part of the solution when it comes to ending the stigma of mental health. That’s all there is to it. That is all I have control over.
I’ll tell you this though: I was super impressed with the Clearfield-Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team. I was impressed with the community support and the support of local mental health professionals who who came out to make themselves available to the community. They certainly did a great job putting this event together.
I am honored to have been a part of this event and serving the Clearfield-Jefferson community. It’s never an easy time, but it’s an privilege to give my heart to others however they need me to serve them.
Enjoy the above video I put together. It certainly helped me when I was able to process the day.
By the way, they’ve brought me in for the whole week. So, tonight I am going to enjoy the Patriots beat down on Pittsburgh and then get up and rock this week in Pennsylvania.
Jeff Yalden is a speaker and Amazon bestselling author focusing on mental health, motivation and suicide prevention. Find out more about Jeff and The Jeff Yalden Foundation HERE.
To book Jeff for your next event, call Betty at 800-948-9289.