Jeff Yalden Inspires at Florida NAMI Event

On Thursday, October 5, mental health speaker and Amazon bestselling author Jeff Yalden spoke at the Pasco County, Florida chapter of NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Yalden said NAMI is a nonprofit that helps millions of Americans who live with mental illness every single day

According to its website, there are nearly 1,000 NAMI state organizations and NAMI affiliates across the country and NAMI is “nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. What started as a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table in 1979 has blossomed into the nation’s leading voice on mental health.”

NAMI is likely active in your community – raising awareness about mental illness while “providing support and education that was not previously available to those in need.”

Yalden believes that mental illness is quickly becoming the greatest public health crisis of our time.

“What was really great is that this was the first time that I got to speak to a NAMI organization,” he said. “I have a reputation of being a teen/youth mental health speaker. I am trying to get more into the adults as well, because if adults don’t start accepting mental illness as an illness, it’s going to be a lot harder to do our work with the youth and beyond. We need to attack this today, to make tomorrow better – to make mental illness less stigmatized in society.”

He said the bottom line is that mental health isn’t necessarily just a family issue anymore. It is an economic issue and we are all responsible.

“It’s really up to all of us to start getting comfortable being uncomfortable talking about mental health,” he said.

Yalden said he had an awesome time, and that he was honored to have had the opportunity to share his heart with them. He spoke to people that, like him, are living with mental illness. He also spoke to community influencers, police officers, hospital workers and folks who work in the mental health field – validating the importance of what they do every day.

Before every speaking event, Yalden makes it a point to gather his thoughts, to pray and to center himself so that he can be present and with his audience.

Earlier, he contemplated running out and buying some nice clothes for the event, but if he did, he thought that would change who he is. Yalden speaks in casual clothing. That’s who he is.

“Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to be who other people want us to be, and when you try too hard to do that, you end up hurting yourself. As a result, I would probably do my audience wrong. The last thing I want to do is to do my audience wrong.”

In his presentation, Yalden laid it all out – including the time when his marriage of 17 years ended in divorce and he found himself in front of the mirror. Then and there, he asked himself what he had to do with the split.

That question in that moment made a profound impact on him.

“That was the most powerful place I think I have ever been in my life. I realized at that moment when I looked in the mirror that my mental illness was greater than I ever expected it to be,” he said.

Yalden is diagnosed with major depression, bipolar II disorder and PTSD. His goal in living with mental illness is to be transparent and to live with authenticity and to work on himself every day and live in a way that shows mental illness, when treated – like chemotherapy for cancer – can result in a healthy life.

“Folks, as I travel all over the world – 200 days a year – I still see my therapist twice a month. I take my medication. I have come to learn that self-care is not selfish. It’s very important.”

Life happens for us – not to us.

Yalden laid out three important points for daily living:

  • Self-Value
  • Attitude
  • Choices

“You have to be your own best advocate,” he said. “You have to fight for the services you need. It’s time to be serious.”

He went on to talk about anger – and the cognitive distortions associated with it.

In an article about anger, The American Psychological Association cited an example of these cognitive distortions as “misappraisals about the importance of the event or about the capacity to cope.”

“I think everybody in this room has somewhat of a problem with anger,” he said.

When trying to understand where someone else is coming from. Yalden said that he has come to learn that the more you are willing to just be present and listen, the more the other person is willing to share.

Jeff asked the audience to ask themselves these three questions:

  • Is my life meaningful?
  • Is my life fulfilling?
  • Is my life rewarding?

He talked about God and mental health – by all accounts a tough subject to tackle.

“Let me be careful how I say this. I am a man of God, but when a child or an adult is dealing with mental illness, I don’t think God is the answer – yet.”

Yalden always wants to make sure that his audiences receive the full intent of the messages he wishes to convey, and that he is putting it out there as clearly as possible.

“Please hear me.  If you have cancer, God can be in your life – but you are also probably going to get chemo, right? If you have mental illness, you need a mental health professional first – and then God can be a part of that too. Did I make sense?”

Yalden closed with four simple letters: T-I-M-E.

“Let’s continue to do our job every day,” he said.

NAMI member Richard Michaels said that Yalden’s talk was very informative.

“He really has an interesting life story, and you will really learn a lot from him when you listen to him. And listen to the little things that he talks about – the little things that we take for granted, but mean so much in our lives,” he said.

Yalden couldn’t be happier about the event, which was well-attended.

“Down here in Florida, we are talking mental health and making great strides. Thank you NAMI Pasco County.”

For more information about Jeff, click HERE.

Jeff’s speaking calendar fills up fast. To book him now for your event, organization or school, call 800-948-9289.

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Author:Roger Yale

Roger Yale is a longtime contributor to McClatchy Newspapers’ The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, focusing on stories about the people who make the Grand Strand awesome, including teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden. He was voted Story of the Year winner four times by readers of The Sun News’ sister publication, Weekly Surge. Roger is the parent of adult twins. His son is a United States Marine and his daughter is currently involved in marketing for Broadway productions in New York City. He spent many years as a single father, and he believes that the experience was something to relish – and the bond he forged with his twins remains strong. Roger is also a working musician. For more about Roger, visit his blog: www.rogeryale.wordpress.com

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