The Clearfield-Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team is a nonprofit dedicated to reducing suicide within its two-county area in Pennsylvania – roughly 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The team promotes awareness and prevention, and offers training programs to the community at large. They are all about making suicide a topic that everyone can talk about freely in an effort to combat the stigma attached to it.
If you know anything about me, you would know that this is in line with my mission as well.
I had the honor of being invited by the team to participate in the 10th Annual Clearfield-Jefferson Suicide Prevention Walk and to speak at four school communities – DuBois, Brookville, Clearfield-Jefferson and Curwensville.
I’ve been working in teen mental health and suicide prevention for many years. I’m an educator and an advocate, but more importantly, I am a man that proudly lives with mental illness - and I understand.
I’m very proud of the efforts we are making to silence the stigma, get to the hearts our youth, educate parents and communities and to seek more treatment for those who need help. But we have a long way to go. It’s not easy. Breaking down the walls and charging through the barriers of resistance and silence are no small feat for those advocating and doing the work. I see it every day in communities all over our beautiful country. We are trying.
Coming to Clearfield-Jefferson area, I witnessed a community that is a step above. It is a model for other communities to emulate. You are doing amazing things and I was so impressed and touched by the work you are all doing.
It takes a village to raise our children. Thank you for all who invest daily.
I’d like to give a huge shout-out to your local school administrators who were on board and opened their doors to us so that we could come to their schools and plant seeds of hope and inspiration. When you have hundreds of kids under your responsibility it’s hard to say, “Yes!” - especially on a topic that carries such a stigma and with the potential to trigger somebody at any moment of a conversation. You are heroes for opening your doors and being supportive of the well-being of our kids.
I’d like to recognize the staffs and teachers, too. If they don’t buy message on a personal level, why should we expect our students to do the same? Thank you all for opening your hearts and accepting me as one of your own - a member of your school community.
The students were outstanding. In four days, we planted seeds for about 3,000 students, staff, teachers, coaches, parents and more. We connected, laughed and spent time in thought. We took time to feel and reflected on what was discussed. My message didn’t just affect our youth. I heard from so many adults too, including firefighters, police, pastors and teachers. WOW!
I cannot express how amazing your schools were. Every day, I said, “If tomorrow is half as amazing as today, it’s going to be great.” Each day surpassed the day before, or, I just continued to be amazed at the culture, climate, leadership and amazing students of each school. I can’t begin to tell you what an experience this week has been.
I heard stories of hope and triumph, brokenness and resilience, grit and effort and so much more from both students and adults. I heard wisdom and saw the engagement from many of the students, which showed me they were doing the work. They are aware and open to learning crucial skills like coping and problem-solving. They are not afraid to ask for help. I was touched and amazed at how much they opened up and trusted in me to listen as I gave my advice.
All this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for your community involvement – from the Clearfield-Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team to the school administrators, teachers, staff, parents – and of course the students.
Please keep doing what you’re doing.
We can’t measure success in teen mental health unless young people ask for help and we are then able to show results in that area – but we are making a difference. We are talking, listening and giving hope. You are making a difference. What I saw this week is unlike anywhere else, believe me.
Parents: Please continue to work hard on behalf of your kids. Love and support them unconditionally. They have what they need, but too many are missing what they want and that is your time, patience, understanding and validation. You matter, parents. Our kids matter. Our schools matter. Our communities matter.
To Ms. Laina and Ms. Mary, the two beautiful ladies working so hard for the prevention team – thank you. You deserve a long weekend. Emotionally and physically, it was an exhausting four days. I know it’s been an exhausting eight or nine months months in planning. Now that it’s behind us, I’m humbled and incredibly grateful that you trusted in me.
I simply applaud you all. I ask you to continue your support however you can. It is my hope that we can continue these conversations.
It takes a village – and your villages rock!
Jeff Yalden is a speaker and Amazon bestselling author focusing on mental health, motivation and suicide prevention. To find out more about The Jeff Yalden Foundation, go HERE.
Grab your copy of Jeff’s new book, Teen Suicide: The "Why" Behind America's Suicide Epidemic.
To book Jeff to speak at your school or event, call Betty at 800-948-9289.