Glendale High School recently offered a non-mandatory survey to its population of 1400 students. Out of these students, 879 took the survey. The result came back that 59 students – or seven percent – displayed serious suicidal ideation. They knew they had to do something – and fast.
The school decided to do a small summit which led to #FlockTogether2019.
I was invited to deliver a keynote presentation, conduct workshops and spend time with student leaders. I arrived early for a meet-and-greet and to find out more about who they were and what they were doing. Upon walking into their great foyer, my first impression was amazing. Right away, I was greeted by the PTA president, the principal, and the office staff. I knew we were going to have a great day. All staff and student leaders were dressed in white t-shirts emblazoned with “Glendale High School.”
The students entered the gym - all 1400 of them on both sides and chairs set up on the floor. The gym had a great sound system, and believe me, I’ve used thousands of them over the years – and when a PA is not working properly, this can really throw a wrench into a professional speaker’s day. Plenty of staff members were on hand, and many of them asked me if I needed any help. The morning went off with no problems, and I was quite impressed with how quietly 1400 students can sit in the bleachers.
I got to visit with Blaise, a young man who was the incoming senior class president. We talked about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what he thought of the mental health climate among his fellow students. I found Blaise to be a nice young man. He was very well-spoken and interested in becoming a lawyer and a politician. I know he’s going to do wonderful things with his life, and he spoke highly about the importance of this day and that the students needed to know they were not alone. He agreed that the numbers from the survey were alarming and concerning.
This was a student-led event, and they invited folks from the community to come and do workshops – including two mothers who had each lost a child to suicide. They had police officers in attendance, including one from the A&E show, “Live PD,” from Greene County, Missouri.
I had about 38 minutes with the student body in the gym before being rushed off to workshops. I noted how attentive they were, but I was alarmed with how many wanted to come up to me afterwards and talk one-on-one. I didn’t even spend a lot of time talking teen mental health as much as I talked about life, choices, getting to know who you are, sharing my story, and telling the students it’s OK to ask for help. Still, the students – many of them in tears – wanted to talk.
I had an amazing day at Glendale High School, and was totally impressed with the work they are doing to talk mental health and silence the stigma.
I noticed definite red flags with two of the students I had spoken with, and immediately started asking questions. Both of these conversations were quickly escalated to guidance counselors and their parents. I am happy to report that these students are getting the help they need. I was really proud of the them for coming and asking for help.
In my work, I have noticed that a lot that kids don’t know how to ask for help, but when they come up and speak to me, they’re asking for help without realizing that they are asking. I went right to the questions, making sure they felt safe and applauding them for speaking up.
There were many more students that wanted to talk, but I was busy speaking and doing workshops. We didn’t have time to do many one-on-ones. It was hard to know they wanted to talk, but I couldn’t meet with them. I was the guest, and as much as we might tell the clients what works best, many of them have their own ideas and know what they’re doing. I do what I am told, and serve my clients as they see fit.
The counselors did a fine job with the two students I met with, and they about others. They will be on full alert.
Sometimes, all we can do is plant seeds and give the kids permission to speak up. It’s up to them to reach out when they’re hurt with feelings or struggling with stress and anxiety. We are facing great challenges today with our teens, especially when it comes to mental illness – but in my opinion, our schools and communities are doing great things.
Glendale High School stepped up and their students did a great job putting on this event.
At the end of the day, I spent about 90 minutes the student leaders and advisors. We all agreed that they could not let this event be a “one and done” occurrence. We discussed how they as a school could continue letting the students know that there is help and they are a family. We had a great talk and came up with some great, actionable ideas. I could sense that these student leaders were receptive – and before our conversation ended, a few of the students already had an idea about having music playing in the morning and being out front, greeting the other students as they arrived at school.
Glendale High School “gets it.” They certainly set an example for other schools in the Springfield area to emulate.
Thanks for having me.
Jeff Yalden is a mental health speaker and celebrity life coach who specializes in suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Jeff is also the founder and Executive Director of The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc. The Foundation’s mission is to prevent suicide, improve community mental health, and shatter the stigma of mental health by initiating a positive movement to speak up and reach out.
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