TAMPA, Fla. — Thirteen-year-old Jeremiah Mitchell is having a tough year.
The eighth-grader at Carrollwood Day School gets “the blues” about his grades and his friends. He even had to console peers who had thoughts of suicide.
When motivational speaker Jeff Yalden, a national presence with a powerful message, visited the Tampa school, Jeremiah soaked up every word.
“Not everyone is going to like you,” Yalden told hundreds of students in the school’s big auditorium. “And that’s okay.”
Jeremiah listened and nodded.
Yalden’s visit comes at a crucial time. The Centers for Disease Control reports teen suicide and depression almost doubled in the past decade.
Many Tampa Bay area schools, from kindergarten to high school, are incorporating kindness initiatives and morning sharing circles into curriculums.
Carrollwood Day brought in Yalden, a Marine with bipolar disorder and heightened anxiety.
Yalden has a natural way of getting through to young people. His ultimate advice to kids was simple, practical and pure: sleep well, eat well and, as hard as it might be, put the smartphones down more often and be present in the world.
“If you spend four, five hours a day on your smartphone, you’re 70 percent more likely to have depression in your life,” Yalden said.
Jeremiah says social media is not what’s weighing him down these days. Instead, it’s not making honor roll.
Yalden made sure to spend a little one-on-one time with Jeremiah.
“In 10, 15 years, (employers like) Google or NASA are going to be, like, ‘Dude, you didn’t make honor roll in eighth grade?’" said Yalden. "No. Here’s the question. Do you do the best you can every day?”
With a smile on his face, Jeremiah nodded at that, too.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can get free and confidential support 24 hours a day via the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, by calling (800) 273- 8255 or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
For more on Jeff Yalden, go to www.jeffyalden.com.