Gabriela, a 41-year-old mom from Warsaw, Poland, has had enough of her country's outdated abortion laws.

And she's far from the only person in Poland feeling that way.

Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images.


"I am doing it for my daughter," she told The Independent about skipping work to join the peaceful protest that ended up catching the entire world's attention.

Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images.

Gabriela was one of thousands making a ruckus on Oct. 3, 2016, to stand up for abortion rights in Poland.

Photo by Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images.

Dressed in dark clothing to commemorate what was dubbed "Black Monday," people took to the streets — in Poland and around the world — to protest a proposed new measure that would outlaw abortion nationally.

Not certain types of abortions or abortions only after a given number of weeks — all abortions.

Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images.

Protesters wore black in reference to mourning the rights they'd lose should the new measure become law.

How could such a drastic law even be on the table?

After an anti-choice petition began picking up steam — garnering 450,000 signatures — Poland's conservative party in power, called Law and Justice, used the effort to justify making moves to further restrict abortion access by banning the procedure altogether.

Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images.

Legal abortion in predominantly-Catholic Poland is already extremely rare. It's banned, except for when a woman's life is in danger, the fetus is damaged, or in cases of rape or incest.

All of those "except for" instances would be slashed under the new measure. Abortion would be illegal — period.

The new measure wouldn't prevent abortions from happening, of course — they'd just make them much less safe.

Women get abortions, whether or not they're permissible. Study after study has shown this to be true. Ending abortion care would only make life in Poland more dangerous for people who become pregnant but don't wish to become a parent.

One study out of Texas — a state that's seen a steady drop in abortion clinics in recent years — found that, unsurprisingly, self-induced (and riskier) abortion was more common among women who had difficulty accessing reproductive services. As more clinics close, more people fall into this category.

Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images.

In Poland, there were only 1,000 legal abortions last year, yet estimates suggest about 100,000 abortions were carried out illegally or by Polish women who left the country so they could access care.

If Polish officials truly want to prevent abortions from happening, they should focus on methods that actually work, like expanding access to birth control and prioritizing sex education in schools.  

This Ukrainian activist's sign reads "I am for the right of women to decide for themselves." Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images.

The new measure in Poland might seem far-fetched to some Americans watching from afar, but things could change dramatically here after Nov. 8, too.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has suggested women should be "punished" for getting an abortion. His running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, wants Roe v. Wade — the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a woman's right to choose — "consigned to the ash heap of history, where it belongs."

A conservative U.S. Congress probably wouldn't do much to stop a Trump administration's war on women's rights either.

Photo by Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images.

We don't have to wait until 2017 to see how the elimination of abortion access could affect American women — we already have the evidence.

Since 2010, 38 states have passed over 300 new abortion restrictions, according to The Guardian. Dozens of abortion clinics, predominantly in the South, West, and Midwest, have closed their doors. This has led to more unsafe abortions and a rise in horror stories medical providers report regularly from women who've lost access to care.

Photo by Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images.

“These are stories of desperation, not empowerment,” Sarah Roberts, a University of California at San Francisco researcher who's studied the effects of abortion clinic closures, told The Guardian. “These are stories of women going into their medicine cabinets and using things that are in there, or stories of women using illegal drugs, in the hopes that it will end their pregnancies.”

It's a dark reality many Polish women know all too well, and on Black Monday, they refused to stay silent.

The Black Monday strike made waves across dozens of Polish communities, which were essentially forced to shut down due to the protests.

Schools and offices were shuttered in over 60 cities throughout the country, as protesters forced Poland to come to a grinding halt. As you might imagine, it's difficult to carry on business as usual when half the population is preoccupied demanding they be treated like human beings capable of making their own medical decisions.

Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images.

It appears protesters' message struck a chord with the Polish people as a whole too.

While the new restrictive measure was already unpopular, a new poll out on Black Monday showed the anti-abortion initiative is taking a toll on the conservative party in power that's pressing for the new law's passing: Public support for the Law and Justice party dipped to a new low of just 29% according to one poll. The anti-abortion effort is certainly a factor.

"I am very happy," Elzbieta Turczynska, a protester in Waraw, told the Associated Press. "I treat it as the end of some era, hopefully a very short one, but a really dangerous one for us."

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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