10 things that made us smile this week

Bad news usually grabs the headlines so it can be hard to remember that we live in a world full of beauty. Here are 10 stories that made us happy this week because they feature amazing comebacks, powerful acts of giving, and one super-amazing cow.

1. Man brushing his cow to Bruno Mars is a moment of pure zen

This video is the perfect example of how man and nature can live in harmony. Thor the cow is in pure bliss as his human friend brushes him at a farm in Emmett, Idaho.




2. Zalia Avant becomes the first Black American to win the Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee

Zalia's achievement is even more spectacular being that she has only been competing in spelling tournaments for two years. The 14-year-old practices about 13,000 words a day for up to seven hours.

3. Visual effects guy transforms himself into random objects and it's pure magic

Toronto-based animator and video wizard Kevin Parry has gone mega-viral for his mind-boggling collection of videos where he turns himself into random objects. In this series of quick clips he changes into everything from a pumpkin to a bright yellow banana and in most of the videos, he appears to suffer a ridiculous death.

4. High schooler mocked for wearing the same clothes every day surprised by football players

When Michael Todd started his freshman year at MLK prep school in Memphis, Tennessee, his classmates made fun of him because he only had one outfit to wear. "I really don't have clothes at home," he told KTVI. "My mom can't buy clothes for me because I'm growing too fast." But all of that changed when two football players surprised him with bags full of shirts, shorts, and shoes.

Football players give student clothes www.youtube.com


5. Record number of Americans are 'thriving'—even more than before the pandemic, Gallup finds

Americans were asked to rank their current and future life on a ladder scale of zero to ten and the number who ranked themselves as seven or above reached 59.2% in June, eclipsing the previous high of 57.3% set in September 2017.

via Pixabay


6. 1980s cultural icon Michael Winslow made an emotional comeback on 'America's Got Talent'

Actor, comedian, and self-proclaimed "voicetramentalist," Michael Winslow was just about everywhere in the '80s. However, he put his career on the backburner to raise his family after the death of his wife in 1993. This week, he made a stunning comeback on "American's Got Talent" winning four big yesses from the show's judges.

America's Got Talent 2021 Michael Winslow Full Performance & Judges Comments Auditions Week 7 S16E07 www.youtube.com


7. Hundreds offer to donate cars to South Carolina mechanic who fixes them for those in need

Mechanic Eliot Middleton fixes old cars and donates them to rural families without a ride. After being profiled on CBS News, people have donated nearly 8000 cars to the cause. "Whatever glowing feeling is inside me, it just transferred from that TV screen and went inside them," he said.

8. Kenyan scientists genetically alter their bananas to save them from devastating bacteria

A bacterial disease was ravaging banana plants in Kenya. So scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) created a genetically modified banana that was bacterial resistant.

via Pixabay


9. Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee beats leukemia

The highly decorated swimmer was a shoo-in for the summer Olympics in Tokyo but had her hopes derailed when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Rikako fought hard, overcame the disease, and won the 100-meter butterfly race at the Olympic trials, earning her a spot in the 4X100 medley relay races at the games. "I was not expecting to win the 100 meters at all, and I was feeling far less confident than during the Olympic qualifiers five years ago," she said. "It's a miracle just to be sitting here – it's a miracle I'm alive."

10. Track star Quanesha Burks goes from working at McDonald's to the Tokyo games

After suffering a bone injury last year, Quanesha was unsure if she'd be able to compete in the Olympics. But by reflecting on her past, she was able to overcome the injury and made the Team USA roster.

"At one point, my coach told me, 'I don't know if you're going to physically be able to go to the trials.' The doctors didn't know if I would be back in time… I was facing so much, but I kept going back to when I worked at McDonald's. I had my goals set and I knew I could do it," she said.

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.

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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.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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