Forest Hills Schools tackles tough teen issues

Teenage motivational speaker Jeff Yalden gave a speech at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. (Nov. 5, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Today’s teens are faced with challenges that previous generations never had to contend with, and parents often find themselves feeling helpless.

One West Michigan School District is making a push to tackle some of those tough issues head-on, and it’s bringing an MTV teen life coach in to help.

Teens can find themselves in the middle of situations they never saw coming in a matter of seconds, and social media doesn’t help.

“One of our counselors put it best when she said the speed of hurt is so much faster than it ever was,” Heather Lunt said.

Lunt is a Forest Hills Public Schools mom of four that decided to get involved with AAA, which is short for Awareness, Acceptance and Advocacy for Mental Health. It’s a group of parents, counselors and administrators who came together a few years ago after the district saw an increase in the number of teen suicides.

“Like schools across the nation, we’ve experienced suicides among the teenage population in Forest Hills,” Superintendent Daniel Behm said. “We said, ‘There has to be more that we can do.’ And really this issue of looking at depression and looking at eliminating stigma around people reaching out to get help and get treatment.”

In addition to offering all kinds of resources, talking points and information for parents within the district about a long list of issues, AAA received a foundation grant that made it possible for nationally renowned teenage motivational speaker Jeff Yalden to talk with students.

Yalden, a teen life coach on the MTV reality show called “Made,” he talked with students at all three Forest Hills High Schools Tuesday and Wednesday. His goal is to help parents and teens navigate what can sometimes be tough terrain.

“It’s scary what you deal with on a daily basis, no matter what the age of your kids. Sometimes you’re just not prepared,” Lunt said.

“What we find is that when people can reach out and connect with one another, everyone is helped by that. Caretakers are helped by that, parents are helped by that, the patient or student is helped by that,” Behm said. “So it’s that reaching out, that connection we do naturally as human beings in so many other settings, that we wanted to bring that to bear with the issue of mental illness.”

Yalden is giving a free speech open to all parents of all school district at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. He calls it a PG-13 message about resiliency and relating with your teenager.

==Below, Yalden joins 24 Hour News 8 in studio to talk about helpful advice that could lead to a stronger bond between parents and their teens.==



Forest Hills Schools AAA

Jeff Yalden life coaching

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