Improving Meaningful Connection with Others: A Letter & “Yondr” Ponder

An early morning read from a friend resulted in (1) a desire to be part of the solution, not the problem, and (2) a letter to a school administrator. Part of that letter is shared below along with an invitation to consider something similar for you and yours. What do you think, how might your family do a bit of Yondring?

The Letter:

Good morning Mr. [So-and-so]!

My name is TJ Rowden, father of… [and] also a part-time clinical mental health counselor in Syracuse, working primarily with young men struggling with pornography use and its related personal/family impact… I’ve been in the youth and family services treatment field for 15+ years.

I give some background to give this message context. I’m reaching out in part to let you know that we’ve just opened a small office in Syracuse with a growing team of mental health professionals…

Background & Idea
My greatest concern – simply put – is saving kids. My wife, family and I have lived in the Syracuse area for the last 7 years. We’ve been impacted by the loss of life of teens in [surrounding] areas. So… I’m often mindful of things personally and professionally that address such questions as, what’s contributing to this, what might we be missing, what can help? I know there are tremendous resources that focus specifically on suicide in many local high schools and that [ours] has steadily attempted to address this issue over the years. It is a complex issue and one without ready or easy answers. Thank you for those past and ongoing efforts.

Considering the above, I’m mindful of how challenging issues often require creative and innovative efforts toward solutions. I network with friends/colleagues throughout the country and keep my eyes and ears open for such ideas. Recently, a colleague of mine in CA posted something on one of his social media channels that left me with an impression to reach out to you.

I know from the research and my own practice that the presence or absence of meaningful connection is one piece of the very complicated puzzle of teen suicide.

So we pay attention, in part, to anything that cultivates, corrupts/kills, or even counterfeits meaningful human connection.

On that note…

  • It’s been my experience that addictions reflect one such connection counterfeit. A simple definition relevant here is that addiction is the repeated involvement with substance or activity, despite harm caused, due to more immediately perceived pleasure or value (click here for reference).
  • On this note, Johan Hari’s Everything You Think You Know about Addiction is Wrong is a helpful resource on what that value beyond pleasure might well be. In short – addiction –> fulfills a desire for connection –> connection is the opposite of addiction, not sobriety.
  • What kinds of addictive connection counterfeits are most relevant to [our students] and their families today? Among others, teen tech use is one of the top culprits in my personal/professional experience. Not a new idea, I’m sure. But – going back to an interesting idea of my colleague… is there merit to considering something like the following at [our high school]? This simple solution to smartphone addiction is now used in over 600 US schools. The short of it? Yondr phones. Have a look at the article. Might something like this be an idea to consider?

Looking forward to your thoughts? Thanks again for your time and take care!


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