‘There Wasn’t Anything Motivational About Him’ Motivational Speaker ‘Trauma Dumps’ On Students At LHS
‘There Wasn’t Anything Motivational About Him’ Motivational Speaker ‘Trauma Dumps’ On Students At LHS
Jeff Yalden – photo via Facebook

LEONARDTOWN, Md. – On January 12, 2023, motivational speaker, Jeff Yalden, visited Leonardtown High School to give an informative speech on the importance of mental health.

Now, many parents have been calling out the speaker for “trauma dumping” on their children, and are demanding that he is never invited back again.

“My kids said he was terrible. He claimed that self-harm was a good thing because at least the person was feeling something,” said one concerned parent in a Facebook comment.

Many similar comments were left under a Facebook post made by Serenity Place, a counseling service in Leonardtown.

“We were getting calls for appointments due to students being triggered as well as current clients reaching out due to being triggered,” Esther Vanderwal, the President of Serenity Place, told TheBayNet.com. “He is not a licensed person but rather a life coach and self proclaimed motivational speaker. My thoughts on this are that speakers need to be carefully vetted to ensure credentials are valid. We also have so many local individuals who could have provided this service and it would have been much more cost effective and from a credentialed provider. Parents also need to check in with their students to make sure they have space to process the traumatic examples they heard about. As always, we are here for our community if anyone needs support.”

Reports were also made of Yalden coming up to students and asking them very personal and inappropriate questions. There were also reports of Yalden kissing multiple female students on the cheek.

On his official website, / it states that Yalden is a, “Teen Mental Health Expert.” However, this is just one of many times that Yalden has been called out by a community that he has visited.

In May of 2019, Yalden’s presentation at Bay View Middle School in Wisconsin was canceled after concerns were raised about a presentation the day before at Bay Port High School, according to a Fox 11 News report. district-cancels-middle-school-speaker-after-complaints-about-presentation-at-high-school

Yalden also faced backlash from the community in Atchison, Kansas.

“Our community of Atchison, Kansas was tragically hit with several student suicides. Jeff Yalden scammed our community to extract money for his personal gain and then went online and said that more of our students would kill themselves,” a concerned parent wrote in a blog post on Ripoff Report. 

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After his visit to Atchison, Yalden made a post on Instagram stating, “Last month I told them they’d have another suicide. They did and today I returned to show my support and be where I needed to be.” BhINkF2gFXT

“The event was supported by funds from a student-led fundraiser seeking a guest speaker to discuss mental health,” James Copsey, the Principal at Leonardtown High School, told TheBayNet.com. “The cost for Mr. Yalden was $6,700. No public school funds were used to support this event.  The event was advertised in the LHS principal’s January 8, 2023 weekly update. There were students who elected not to attend.  As with any program or presentation, we have mixed responses. Many teachers, parents, and students reported it was a valuable presentation and generated positive discussions with students about mental health, while others have expressed concerns. We want to provide our students with opportunities to express their mental health needs and to encourage healthy dialogue. If a student or parent has any concerns about mental health, accessing the following Mental Health Resources or contacting the appropriate school counselor or another trusted adult at school for support is appropriate.”

Community members are still outraged and looking for answers. Serenity Place has been the main driving force for getting Yalden removed from the guest speaker list.

“Just to be clear, we do not set out to ‘stir things up,’ but if that is what it takes to protect the mental health of students, our organization will do just that. As social workers, we take an oath to fight for Social Justice where we see a wrong. Furthermore, we are in no way affiliated with this speaker and did not fund this event,” Serenity Place wrote in a Facebook post.

Serenity Place then followed up with another Facebook post with a call to action for concerned community members.

“Just spoke to the school administration regarding the speaker at LHS (Leonardtown High School). They are apparently measuring the negative response based on only a few calls made. If you want the speaker removed from ever being invited back, please call the superintendent’s office. This will need a community push so please help remove this speaker from ever coming back. If only five kids were encouraged to cut or hurt themselves, that’s five too many.”

Contact our news desk at news@thebaynet.com 

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14 Comments

  1. “….due to students being triggered as well as current clients reaching out due to being triggered..”.Really?? People need to learn that there are many things in life that may be upsetting, but it is up to the individual to learn how to cope. The world cannot change to the point that everything will be acceptable to everyone.

    1. Right. Everyone so sensitive and blames everyone else. Fewer ppl take accountability in their own mental health.

    2. telling kids, even kids that haven’t self harmed before, that self harm is good, is triggering. yall hear the words triggered and take it the wrong way

    3. as one of the students that was there, he spoke in detail about a friend of his shooting himself in front of him. we are told this was motivational. it. was. not. we are still kids, and that man is a scam

  2. Tell me you were NOT trying to stir things up, while literally telling me you WERE trying to stir things up. Meanwhile, every student who came home to discuss the speaker with their parents started a conversation about mental health. My daughter thought his points on self harm were on point & all he was doing was encouraging them not to be AFRAID of talking about self harm. That if they were harming themselves that means they still want to *feel something*, now it’s time to move forward and find a safe way to feel your feelings that doesn’t include self harm.

    Most mental health professionals pride themselves on DIRECT clinical impressions or observations not what others tell them. This type of intentional gaslighting dialogue pits parents against a school trying to do an important thing & the meaning of the message gets obscured by the controversy posts like yours create. That is not what hurting kids/students need more of…

    https://m.facebook.com/100051284840123/posts/pfbid02tLGCcQA2T7pBctVxX8pdtKfTcYVdQfBj3sS3mtz6qPGWwkkHn2bM5m5Yd68nDfGvl/?mibextid=cr9u03

  3. If your kid needs a motivational speaker, you’re failing them as parents. Stop depending on the state sponsored glorified babysitting service that is the public school system to do your job for you. Take some responsibility!

  4. Sure sounds like the school dropped the ball on this. His past history should have raised red flags. School administration needs to do their job.

  5. I was actually a student at this presentation and I have to just say ot was as bad as people thought it was and potentially worse as in detail he told us how a friend of his in the military commited suicide and again in detal how other friends of his in the military died. It was genuinely scary to think that this was supposed to be motivating for us.

  6. Honestly this “motivational speech” was nothing but just a huge trauma dump of everything bad that has happened in his life with no real motivation put into it just jumping from story to story without a real point being made to any of it.

  7. THIS. A thousand times THIS:””He is not a licensed person but rather a life coach and self proclaimed motivational speaker. My thoughts on this are that speakers need to be carefully vetted to ensure credentials are valid. We also have so many local individuals who could have provided this service and it would have been much more cost effective and from a credentialed provider. Parents also need to check in with their students to make sure they have space to process the traumatic examples they heard about.””
    Not only did I check out this guy online BEFORE the day he as to be there, I did NOT let my kid even go that day. These people go around eating up money that we can use for better things in our schools. So done with these idiots. They are essentially slick drama salespeople. No credentials should = no facetime with vulnerable youth.

  8. as one of the students there it was mostly worse then described in this article, he graphically spoke about one of his friends in the military killing themselves, even going into detail about what kind of gun he used. It deeply disturbed both me and my friends, going so far as to have one of them break down crying. there was nothing motivational about this “motivational speaker” and i hope he gets what he deserves for that

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