West Fargo Public Schools encourages people to speak up about mental health
A student success forum was held with keynote speaker and mental health advocate Jeff Yalden
FARGO, N.D. — It’s not rare for teenagers to have to deal with mental health, but unfortunately, it is less common to hear those same people address their issues.
“Kids don’t open up because they are afraid that you’re going to judge them, that you are not going to validate their thoughts and their feelings,” mental health advocate Jeff Yalden said.
Yalden’s mission is to change that.
“I am man that lives with mental illness,” Yalden admits openly. “Who I am as a man has really changed because I have accepted it, I have acknowledged it and I am willing to do the work.”
That is why Yalden, who has spoken across the country about mental health, was asked to speak at the West Fargo Public School’s student success forum.
His message was simple.
“It is okay to not be okay, but to not be okay and not do something about it, that’s not okay,” says Yalden.
For West Fargo parent, Lynne Olien, that statement is heard all too clearly. In 2016, her son, Justin, died by suicide after struggling silently for over two years.
She started the “Justin’s Break the Silence” fundraiser in his honor to help prevent any other child or parent from experiencing what her family went through. Putting together this event was one of the many ways she encourages kids to get talking.
“Even in 2019, there is such a stigma around talking about suicide and depression and you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to put those ideas in your kids head, [but] the statistics show that kids already have those thoughts,” Olien reveals. “You need to make it okay for them to come to you to know that they can talk to you.”
The more who know that, the better off we all are. For Olien, spreading that message is something she believes Justin would be proud of.
“Justin had a very sensitive, caring heart and he would be rejoicing to know that his suicide has had a lasting impact on people and that people are making a better choice, a different choice, to not end their life and to get help.”