See a report from this recent local event.

The five Linn County public schools gathered at Brookfield High School this week, to hear from Jeff Yalden, a noted motivational speaker for teens. Yalden is the product of an abusive home life growing up, and battles mental illness.

“My goal today is to plant seeds,” said Yalden.”I think that, after all these years, that is what we do. We don’t know what these kids have been through, what they’re going through today. With kids, it’s all about their emotions, and what they’re going through today. What I hope to accomplish is hope, enthusiasm, perseverance, a drive for their success, and a drive for their journey in life.”
In sitting through the assembly, the energetic motivational speaker had the audience’s attention from the word go. Yalden spoke to a throng of students for over an hour, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the students being willing to stay for many hours more.
Yalden was a three-sport athlete in high school, and was heavily recruited to play college football. He was a teacher and coach, leading a team to a state basketball title in his tenure on the bench.
But Yalden knew he had mental issues, and got help for severe depression, bipolar, and post traumatic stress disorder. Yalden was also a Marine, and served in the Gulf War. Losing two Marines triggered PTSD in Yalden, and got him to seek the help he needed.
“I think one of the biggest obstacles to overcome with kids is to get them to live their lives in the present moment,” said Yalden. “We want them to embrace the now; the trials, and the successes. Another thing that is important is to be comfortable with who you are. A big part of that is embracing who you are not.”
Yalden continued: “I learned that if there is something wrong in my life today, the first place I go is to the mirror. I ask how I can be better. I ask better questions about myself. Don't compliant what isn't complicated. Take responsibility for yourself.”
This sense of responsibility is something that Yalden stressed during the assembly as well. He also discussed the tendency to want something now, and not later.
“We're willing to give up everything for what will gratify us now,” Yahden told the students. “Life is hard. But when you see your peers are down, you help them, you encourage them. And when you arrive, you look back at all of the work you did together.”
He continued: “Life is not fair. When opportunity presents itself, you have to be present and engaged. There are two questions that young people ask leaders. ‘Can I trust you?’ and ‘Do you care about me?’”
Yalden explained to the students that the adults in their lives are hard on them because they see the potential that they possess. He noted that another issue is that people tend to have trouble with forgiving one another, and themselves.
“You have to forgive yourself, and then you go apologize,” said Yalden. “People have walked against us, forgive them you don't know their story. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could forgive as quickly as we judge? We can, it's a matter of choice.”
That evening, Yalden presented a different program for the adults in the communities. This event was held at Park Baptist Church in Brookfield.
“With the parents, we talk about mental health, signs and symptoms,” began Yalden. “My theory about teen suicide is three things: one, a child feels alone; two, a child feels they are burdened; and three, a child has a desire for suicide.”
Yalden noted that kids aren’t afraid to die. But, a job of parents is to give them reasons to live.
“We see that they have so much to live for, but they don’t see that,” said Yalden. “We have to show them that suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.”
He stressed that family time is an important prevention step for suicide.
“Have them take out the earbuds,” said Yalden. “This is a time where we can connect, and talk about what’s going on, what we are grateful for, and what may be bothering them. Sometimes as a parent, we have to listen more than we talk.”
Yalden also stressed that parents need to be the trusted adult that their child would go to first, when the hard times hit.
“The challenge for parents is to let go of the struggle of life and put your family first,” said Yalden. “Life takes us all on a journey, and we’re all stressed out. Our parents can make family a priority. Put social media on a timer, and enforce downtime from their devices. Kids need more sleep, take everything away, and have them get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
Yalden spoke of faith. He posed an interesting question concerning prayer and schools.
“I think it’s interesting that after a suicide or a school shooting, we all pray to God,” began Yalden. “Why can’t we pray to God together before then? I prayed for God to work through me to be present and engaged in the moment, and to let me reach the audience.”
Yalden concluded: “Do what’s right, and treat people how you would have them treat you.”