Ryan's Story Presentation for Parents and Students
More than 2000 schools and well over 1 Million students reached throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Columbia
My son’s life story affects students like no other presentation. This true story inspires them to make positive changes in their lives to reduce bullying, cyberbullying and prevent teen suicides. Students are reached profoundly to examine themselves and how they treat others. Bystanders are inspired to no longer stand by and let others get bullied at school or online. A potent lesson about forgiveness is also imparted. All will leave this presentation feeling loved, hopeful and changed. Please find below the program fees, contact information and available dates.
The dates underlined on the calendar are booked. All other dates are available.
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How This Started
The first time I spoke to students about Ryan was at Mount Mansfield Union High School in May of 2005. I was invited to be the keynote speaker for "Respect Day,” because of my involvement with getting the Vermont bully prevention law passed. I reluctantly agreed because I wasn't sure what to say to these students. After many days of stressing over how to tell Ryan's story, I decided just tell it and then let them ask me questions at the end.
The response was overwhelming. As I looked throughout the audience, I could sense the students were connecting with the story, seeing many eyes welling up with tears. As I paused between sentences, I could have heard a pin drop. When it was over, the audience gave me a standing ovation and several students came up to shake my hand or even hug me. I had never experienced anything like this before and sensed something unusual happened that morning. Sure enough, by word of mouth and through social media, other Vermont schools learned about my well-received presentation and urged me to come to their school to present.
Since 2005, I have visited over 2000 schools and received thousands of emails and hand-written letters from students expressing how much this presentation affected them. So often the students tell me that Ryan's story changed their life for the better. Many have even confessed they were the bully and apologized to the victim. Many targets of bullying shared with me they gained the courage to get help from adults. Countless others expressed they will no longer be a bystander to bullying.
Why This Has Become One of the Most Effective Programs
Early on, I realized the best way to deal with my enormous pain of losing my son Ryan was to use his life story to inspire positive change in schools throughout Vermont and the rest of the country. Yes, I am the one who spearheaded the Vermont Bullying Prevention Law, but soon after its implementation, it became apparent to me that the law was not the solution. At this point, every state in the country now has a bullying prevention law in place. Unfortunately, we still have a national epidemic of children who are bullied and feeling isolated through the use of technology. The tragic result has caused emotional distress among victims of bullying, many who self-harm or even complete suicide.
The solution to this problem is not a law but finding a way to reach and change every student's heart and mind. I believe the best way to reach a student is from their heart to their mind because developmentally, their limbic (emotional) part of the brain is primarily in use. The frontal lobe is later developed which assists in decision making. There is no better way to learn the valuable lessons of suicide and bullying prevention than through a real-life emotional story told directly by the father of Ryan Halligan. However, this approach assumes enormous responsibility to present healthily and helpfully. Through visiting over 2000 schools and giving this presentation nearly 4000 times, I have accomplished a level of expertise. Based on feedback from mental health professionals over the years, I have perfected the delivery and obtained consistent positive results at every school I visit.
The Student Presentation Details
My son’s life story affects students like no other presentation. It is a real story that inspires students to make positive changes in their lives towards reducing bullying, cyber-bullying and preventing teen suicides. Students are reached deeply and profoundly and are encouraged to examine their lives and how they treat others. Bystanders are inspired to stand by no longer and use their voice to stop others from getting bullied at school or online. Also, I leave the audience with a potent lesson about forgiveness. All will leave this presentation feeling loved, hopeful and changed.
This presentation does not get into the specifics of Ryan's suicide, nor does it express an overly simple connection between bullying and suicide. I never use the word "bullycide", as described on the home page of Ryan's Story. I always make the point that I believe my son died of an illness called depression which tragically went undetected and untreated. Bullying was a contributing factor, but there was an underlying mental health issue which made Ryan more susceptible. Not every child who is bullied becomes suicidal. I do believe some kids are much more sensitive than others, which makes them more vulnerable to responding to bullying with an extreme response. Yes, we should address the bullying behavior, but we must also focus on building resiliency and coping skills especially in highly sensitive children and all children. During the Q&A portion of my presentation, I always emphasize that if he or she ever feel suicidal or has a suicidal friend, to immediately seek help from an adult.
I have received numerous compliments from school psychologists about how well I address bullying, depression, coping skills and the delicate intersection of these issues. I have also received an endorsement from a leading expert in the field of post student suicide intervention and safe messaging for schools, Joanne L. Harpel, MPhil, J.D., President, Coping After Suicide; President and CEO, Rethink The Conversation.
After doing this presentation over 3500 times and reaching an audience well over 1 million, not once has there been a negative situation created in response to my program. The exact opposite always occurs. Often students who were not previously a concern to the adults, because they hid their feelings, come forward. Many of these students step into a counselor's office for the very first time and ask for help. I have countless emails from students, parents, educators, and therapists thanking me for inspiring students to open up and seek help.
The student presentation is age appropriate for grades 5 through 12. The presentation is 75 minutes or about two consecutive class periods. It takes 45 minutes to tell the story. The students are then given a brief stand and stretch moment. For the remaining time, they are allowed to ask me questions. This is a critical part of the presentation in which issues are clarified, and paramount lessons are processed together.
Before the presentation, some schools worried about the length, but all said afterward that they never had a guest speaker capture and hold their students' attention so well for the entire time. I have often been told, "You could have heard a pin drop in between sentences." However, if your school cannot accommodate 75 minutes long presentation, I can deliver one in 60 minutes and still address all of the critical points which are typically drawn out during the Q&A in the 75-minute format. The material is sent well ahead of the presentation to help you prepare and post-process the presentation with your students. You can review the documents by clicking on the links at the very bottom of this page.
The Parent Presentation Option
I also offer a parent evening presentation titled "IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER” A Father’s Hard-Earned Lessons About Cyberbullying, Depression, and Suicide. This presentation captures and discusses the lessons learned from our tragedy. Additionally, I update this presentation every school year to address the latest social media problems facing preteens and teens. Handouts are provided with recommendations for parents regarding technology use by adolescents. Parents will get an unambiguous message that they need to step up and take responsibility for how their child uses technology and interacts with their peers in person and online.
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