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Teen Suicide: A Parent's Responsibility

Now before you jump all over me and assume I am saying the loss of a child is the parent's fault, please watch the video and read to the end.

I was in a school community last week working with teens, teachers and staff, parents and the community after the suicides of two students and the loss of two teens in a car accident. You can imagine the toll this has taken on this Community the past year to year and a half. 

In January of 2018, a young man eleventh grade made a forever decision. Nobody saw the signs. Nothing left behind - no notes, no clues, nothing. 

Everyone is left devastated with no answers to the many questions.  This young man, a son, a student, a friend, a classmate; a young man with a dream, but ultimately a life taken too soon by a decision that could and should have been avoided. There is help. It’s going to be OK. 

As the community started to heal and move forward, another devastating blow. This time, it was a young lady. Eleventh grader as well. 

By all accounts, everyone I talked to talked about these two young students talked with great respect, pride, and joy about these two eleventh graders. They were good kids and a pleasure to be around.  Two typical teens you would have never thought would do this.

During my visit to this school community, one thing stood out and this is where I say, "A Parent's Responsibility."

In keeping this private, I’ll say her name was Emily. For a couple weeks Emily (not her real name) wasn’t herself and it was noticed by friends, teachers, and her band director. Every day there was concern and they all followed proper protocol - they intervened.  Friends told teachers and teachers and friends went to the counselor and administration.  The counselors contacted her outside counselor.  She was on the schools radar. The trusted adults were there and did what they had to do, but Emily wouldn’t talk.  This is typical of teens.

Emily was also in therapy.  People knew.  The therapist didn’t suspect anything was that severe. The school - counselor, teachers, band director reached out to her parents. Emily was kind of an only child.  Adopted at three years old, to an older couple who are now in their 70’s. 

I met dad. A loving and compassionate man.  I got to spend quite a bit of time with him during my visit.  He arrived to my parent program at 5:30pm.  He was early and while I was setting up we got to talking.  He stayed for the whole presentation and helped me pack and walked out of the building with me at 9:30pm.  He was still really hurt. Of Course. So many questions he had. Unfortunately, all I could really say was, “I’m so sorry!”

However, he said one thing to me that is the point of this blog. He said, “You know, nobody said anything to me that she was struggling.”  He had known that weeks prior there was talk and concern, but he was baffled nobody came to him. Did they?  Did they not?

I spent the day - 15 hours in this school community.  I got to meet a lot of staff and talk to a lot of people.  I spoke to Emily's friends, teachers, and all that intervened, including working the whole day with her counselor.   I had no concern they all did the right thing and it was mentioned a few times they had called home. They even spoke with her therapist. Her therapist knew that she was struggling, but it didn't seem to really concern her, I suppose.

I said to her dad, “Could it be possible that they did reach out to you, but maybe you weren't entirely present.  Could it be that what they had to say you weren't ready to hear or afraid of what they were saying?  Could it be possible you were scared and therefore didn't hear the conversations?

He was very open to that possibility. He acknowledged that I could be right and maybe they had and he wasn't hearing it.  He was a true gentlemen.  A very nice man.

All to often, too many parents are against mental health and think all family issues are to be addressed in the home. Is this the stigma or is this possibly EGO?  Maybe it's both and the stigma and the ego are getting in the way of a parent doing the right thing for their child.

Today’s youth are 24/7 and 365 days a year.  In the coming years we will see more labels assigned to mental illness.  I believe that mental illness today is more broad than we know or accept it to be and it’s changing. In the next decade we will have a 31% increase in teen suicide and drug and alcohol related deaths or overdoses and who is to say an overdose isn't a suicide attempt?

My point is is that we can’t do this alone. It’s okay for your child to talk to someone. It’s okay as parents to be getting help from outside professionals.  Heck, I think we could all benefit from professional counseling. 

Jeff speaking in a school community where a teen suicide devastated everyone.

Jeff speaking in a school community where a teen suicide devastated everyone.

Maybe the family received the phone call but wasn’t sure of how to respond. What to do. Maybe the cries for help and people reaching out where ignored because of fear or the, “I don’t know what to do.”  Maybe the calls weren’t taken seriously because like many people think, "This wouldn't happen to my child."  What about when it is your child?  What about when it does happen in your community?  It's important then?  Then is too late!

I want to share with you this. Dad had said to me that in January he had attended the services of the young boy who had taken his life. Remember, the young boy who took his life in January of 2018?  He was her classmate.  They were both eleventh graders at the same school.  Well, dad had told me he attended the services and wanted to support the family, give his condolences and show his support.

Well, little did he know that his daughter was going to take her life a couple of months later.  We never think this could be our child.  His child was next.  It could happen anywhere.  It could happen in your school community.  I pray it isn't your child and I pray we save lives by talking and getting our children the help, but I also know we are going to lose some.  I wish mental health wasn't such a stigma and that seeking professional help wasn't about ego and fear or thinking it's a commitment.  A commitment to what?  It's about growing, learning, understanding, and learning how to process your thoughts and emotions.

My friends, I've had these conversations too many times to count where the parents never thought it would be their child, and then their child is dead and I am talking to the parents, because now it's important to them.  Please make it important to you.  The whole well-being of our child is important.  The greatest influence in a child's life is the parents.  Take all signs seriously.

Very sad. Parents, please take all signs seriously and make every effort if the Red Flags are there. Make every effort to get you Child the professional help they need. It's OK to ask for help.

Here is my TEDx Talk about Teen Suicide.  I think you should watch and share it.  It could save a life. VIDEO.

Who is Teen Mental Health & Teen Suicide Prevention Specialist, Jeff Yalden?

Jeff Yalden is an expert consultant in the area of technology and how it relates to our mental health working with teens, educators, mental health professionals, and school communities.  Jeff works with school communities and speaks at conferences, colleges and universities, talking to both students, parents, educators, guidance counselors, mental health professionals, counselors, therapists, doctors, and psychotherapists about the on-line world and how technology can best be used for our optimal well-being.  

Jeff Yalden is highly regarded as North America’s number one Teen Mental Health Speaker. He is also a leading Suicide Crisis Intervention Expert and Suicide Prevention trainer, having worked with hundreds of school communities – teens, educators, and parents world-wide.

He is a four-time Amazon bestselling author, including his recent book, BOOM! One Word to Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every Day. 

His Mental Health & Motivation: The Unlikely Life Coach Podcast attracts thousands of subscribers each month, due in large part to his hard-hitting and from-the-heart approach to motivation, self-improvement and his straight talk to families, teens and those interested in making real changes in their lives. 

Since 1992, Jeff has presented his “About Life” message to more than 4000 live audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 other countries. 

From 2005-2011, Jeff was featured as a celebrity teen and family life coach on MTV’s long-running reality show, MADE, and has appeared in numerous print, radio, and television interviews nationwide, including FOX, CBS, NBC, SPIKETV, A&E, and The Oprah Network. 

As a celebrity teen and family life coach, Jeff digs deep and gets to the heart of the matter -  helping teens, young adults, families, and communities successfully navigate through life’s every day struggles and find real solutions to the challenges that come their way. 

He is a Gulf War Veteran and a two-time Marine-of-the-Year recipient, and was Mr. New Hampshire Male America in 1990. 

Every year, more than a million people are inspired by Jeff Yalden’s messages, leaving then empowered by the palpable energy he leaves behind after every presentation. 

Today, Jeff has a non-profit foundation, The Jeff Yalden Foundation, Inc. (a 501(c)(3) that brings awareness and suicide prevention to school communities in a crisis situation.  

For more information, media inquiries, and speaking engagements, please visit WEBSITE.

Mental Health & Motivation

The Unlikely Life Coach

Jeff Yalden is a former two-time Marine-of-the-Year recipient and a man that lives with mental illness. He’s a tell-it-like-it-is advocate for rising up each day and not being a victim, who combines credible content with a butt-kicking-take-responsibility approach to damn near everything in your life. He’s a 25 year professional speaker on motivation and mental health, bestselling author, celebrity teen and a family life coach, and radio personality.