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Morgan High School Community: We are Raider Pride!

Renowned teen mental health and community communicator, Jeff Yalden visits Morgan High School in Morgan County, OH.

Morgan County, Ohio is a small rural community in southeast Ohio who has been impacted by loss. The whole community is struggling.  A couple of years ago, a car accident took the lives of two students.  This has impacted the community greatly. 

During the winter months of 2018, a young boy in grade 11 made a forever decision to end his life.  This wasn't easy on a community already hurting and looking for meaning and understanding.  Teachers, staff, parents, and community devastated.  The classmates and students crushed.  Then, a couple months later, another grade 11 young lady made a forever decision herself.  

Everyone is lost. Hurt. Crushed. Devastated. "Who is to blame?  What is the reason for this?"  You might ask, "Why us?"  The car accident, "It's your fault!", people might scream.  Sure, all these questions and finger pointing when you are grieving and trying to process all that is happening.

Could we be causing more hurt than helping when we are blaming, name calling, putting our own ego and agendas ahead of thinking more clearly and objectively thinking like, "How can I help be a part of the solution?"  I get it.  Everyone is in pain.  Everyone is hurting.  That doesn't help that fact that we can't take back what has happened.  We can though make matters worse when we constantly are reliving the past and not asking the better questions to make us move forward.  it's not fair.  We've lost a part of us.  We've lost a part of our community.  Agreed, but also we have a community that matters and our community has to grieve together and pull through together.  Grieving is on your own terms and there is help.

I'm Jeff Yalden and I work with school communities for a living.  A school community being proactive about teen mental health and suicide prevention or a community trying to pull through and regroup.  This is what I do.  I was invited to Morgan High School and I spent a 15 hour day arriving at 7am for a meet and greet with school administration, counselors, and community members, mental health that brought me in.  I didn't leave the building till 9:30pm and I didn't even stop to eat something.  I went right through and had such a good day with the students and staff that I didn't even notice.

My first impression was very positive and after 26 years of working in schools I can tell a school, their staff, the energy, the spirit, the morale, the stresses in minutes.  I can tell if this is an environment or a school that I'd want to send my kids to.  Morgan High is first class: the administration, counselors (although short staffed, but what school community isn't?), teachers, and the office staff (they were a hoot!).  I was very impressed with everyone and also the cleanliness of the school and how attentive the maintenance personnel were asking if I needed anything, could they do anything, etc.  Everyone was very welcoming.

The students I think were expecting an assembly on suicide prevention or how to grieve and move forward.  For two hours we visited together in the auditorium and you could hear a pin drop.  The students were amazing.  Very kind, respectful, and appreciative.

After the assembly there were many students who wanted to talk one on one.  This is where you really connect with students.  This is where you have students on the school radar, but this is where you find out there are more that you didn't know about.  Why me?  Why do students feel comfortable wanting to talk to me?  Because they say, "You get it.  You understand."  Also, many times it's that person they trust but also know they will never see you again and it's easy to open up to you.  I know.

We had some great conversations.  The common denominator amongst all the conversations I had was family dynamics.  A lot of kids being pulled one way or another by divorced parents, custody issues, or being thrown out of the house.  Self-esteem or lack there of.  Aside from this, I met some very smart, strong, and wise young men and women just trying to survive and do better each and every day.

I spoke to the teachers and the staff.  I didn't want to get into teen suicide on the 4th day of school.  I wanted to validate them and praise them for who they are and what they do.  I wanted to remind them as the new year starts to remember your, "WHY."  Remember every day why we do what we do.  I am also giving them my online course - Teacher and Staff Suicide Prevention Online Training Course.  They can take that on their terms.  Right now they're starting the year and I don't want to bring back last year.  I think they understood.  

Had some great conversations with teachers and staff.  We spoke about the losses and I felt their pain, the hurt, the devastation when one of your kids makes a forever decision or the pain seeing the community hurting and at odds.  This all takes away from the spirit and morale of a community.  It hurts and makes our jobs harder.  Imagine how it also affects our kids.  It does.  They feel it.  They shouldn't have to be victim to the tension and situation.  They're kids.  They're going through the process of growing up and learning and we as adults teach them through our influences and role modeling behaviors.  What we are ALL going through is terrible, but it's all learning experiences we all grow from.  How we handle adversity and differences is all part of the education and growing we all do.  We can be angry, but that shouldn't effect how we respond through tough times.  I am sorry for everyone for your losses.

I had a wonderful visit to Morgan High School.  I left really impressed.  I got to visit the sports teams and watch the student athletes practice in the heat.  I got to visit with some more teachers and coaches.  I visited more students during my time waiting for the parent program.  Morgan High is a beautiful school with many of caring and trusted adults.  I left the community very impressed.

I'm not worried about the mental health of your students or staff.  I think you are off to a great start and you are all doing well.  I left a fan of Morgan High.  Go Raiders.  Raider Pride.

I do want to leave you with this, if I may.  Everyone is responsible for their own attitude, choices, and behaviors.  As adults, it isn't about us anymore.  It's about our kids and our school community.  The past doesn't equal the future.  The past we can't erase, but we can learn from and grow and a community is about togetherness.  Our schools and the teachers and staff in our buildings matter very much.  They're some of the most trusted adults and best role models for our kids and with so many broken homes I heard about, we NEED OUR INCREDIBLE TEACHERS AND COACHES.  We need the pride and spirit of Raider Nation.  This is where our kids will thrive.  We need the support of our community - everyone.

Lastly, to the wonderful young people I met, remember you matter.  You have trusted adults.  Don't ever feel alone.  Don't ever feel like you are a burden.  Know that it's OK to ask for HELP.  We can't do this alone.  We need each other, we need these trusted adults and mentors in our lives.  Talk to them.  We can't help you if we don't know you are hurting and when we do talk, it's OK to be honest.  It's OK to admit you're not OK, but it's not OK to ignore it and let it all fester and then you explode.  No matter what you are going through, breathe, take a time-out, talk to a trusted adult and even if you find a therapist to talk to, there is nothing wrong with having one trusted adult you can trust and confide in.  A trusted adult to help you process your thoughts and emotions.

You're a teenager and with all the thoughts, feelings, emotions, growing, hormones, and adding every day social media platforms, texts, drama, sports, etc no your plate, we understand how being on 24/7 you can't get away and how this can affect your emotions.  Absolutely.  This is where you are learning and growing and the best thing to learn now is your mental health and how to respond and not react.  How to let go and not let certain things have such effect on you.  How to bring your anxieties and stresses down.  We need you to learn to be your best advocate and asking questions is how you learn and grow.

I'm sorry if I overstepped my boundaries and said anything that offended anyone.  It's not my intention to do that or add to the fire.  As a guest coming in to your community I got to witness a special place - Morgan High.  I got to witness and meet special people who make a difference.

You all matter.  You all are special.  Let's all take a deep breathe, be understanding of each other and compassionate that some are really hurting and that hurt is going to be forever.  Let's all do what we can to be part of the solution and the community moving forward.  We all play a role in that.  Most of all, it's about our kids and our schools educating, inspiring, and being a strong and positive influence in our kids lives.

I'll always remember this special day, Morgan High.  Thanks for letting me be a part of your lives.

Who is Teen Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Expert, Jeff Yalden

Jeff Yalden is highly regarded as the number one Teen Mental Health Speaker in all of North America, Jeff is a Suicide Crisis Intervention Expert and Suicide Prevention Trainer working with hundreds of school communities every year. 

Since 1992, Jeff Yalden has traveled to 50 states and 48 countries delivering his message, "About Life.”

From 2005-2011, Jeff was a celebrity teen and family life coach on MTV’s hit realty show MADE.  

As a celebrity teen & family life coach, Jeff gets the heart of the matter helping teens, young adults, families, and communities in their struggles together.  

He’s a Gulf War Veteran and a two- time Marine-of-the-year recipient 1991-1992. He was Mr. New Hampshire Male America, 1990. 

Every year over 1 million people are left inspired by Jeff Yalden's inexhaustible energy that permeates after he speaks.

For more information, please visit www.TheJYF.org.