Suicide: The Forever Decision

Des Moines, Iowa: Lincoln High School Loses One of its Own

On February 7, 2017 – not even a week after Jeff spoke at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa – he got the news that high school senior Quai Horton had taken his life.

“I have a picture of him about five feet away from where I was speaking,” he said, adding that he also conducted an in-service training for teachers at the high school about mental health and teen suicide.

Days later, it became a reality when Horton made his “forever decision.”

“I want to offer my prayers, thoughts and condolences to all of the classmates, students, staff members and teachers – the Des Moines community – and most of all to the parents and close friends of our friend, ‘Q,” he said in a video message about Horton.

What Yalden found the most disturbing about this young man’s suicide was that there were very direct verbal clues on his Facebook page indicating his intentions – and yet nobody said a word about it.

“I want to tell you something: I spent some time on Q’s Facebook page – and from January 26 to Monday [February 6] – what breaks my heart are that the signs were very direct and very clear,” he said.

There was more than a week for someone to come forward, and yet nobody said anything.

This must stop.

“When you have a friend or you know someone is hurting and the signs are real clear like they were – my friends, you’ve got to say something. You’ve got to tell a trusted adult in your life. If worse comes to worst and you don’t know who to call – you call 911 – you call the police.”

Because there is a concern about “copycat suicides” – it is of utmost importance for the community to remain vigilant for the telltale signs.

Jeff has long believed that suicide is a permanent action to a temporary problem, and his theory on teen suicide has three components:

1)      They feel like they are alone.

2)      They feel like you are a burden to someone.

3)      They have a desire for suicide.

When these components intersect, there is the lethal or potentially lethal attempt to take one’s own life – and Jeff offers very specific advice to counteract these components:

If you feel alone, do not underestimate the value of a confidante.

“Everybody has confidantes in life. If you grow up and you have three people that you trust and respect – and whose opinions you value, then you are a very successful person,” he said.

If you feel like you are a burden to anybody, ask yourself the three questions Jeff asks himself every day:

Is your life meaningful? Is your life fulfilling? Is your life rewarding?

“If you can’t say yes to these questions, make a change so that you can say yes.”

One of Jeff’s favorite maxims is – Take time to think.

“You might be dealing with some pain. You might not see light at the end of the tunnel right now – but I promise you that this will change. Breathe. Go talk so someone. Give it some time.”

The pain of the loss of Quai Horton crosses generational lines.

“We are all hurting together,” he said. “I think what’s important right now is that we take the time to really come together and understand that mental illness – thoughts of suicide, anxiety, stress, depression – is real. It is important that we open our hearts and talk to people about it.”

A simple “hello” while walking through the halls can make a big difference to somebody.

For teachers, Jeff stressed the importance of acknowledging each and every child that walks into the classroom.

“School is the safest place for our kids – and I think school is one of the best places where we get our self-esteem and our value – because we all know that when we go home, sometimes it’s not a pretty thing.”

Jeff closed his emotional video message by letting everyone know how sorry he was for the tragic news.

“I am thinking about you. I had a great two days at Lincoln High School. My heart is hurting, my friends. My heart is deeply hurting. I wish I could reach out to you and give you a great big hug.”

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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:

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