Natural disasters bring out the worst of Mother Nature but the best of humanity.

Hurricane Harvey is no exception.

The massive storm made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, inundating the Houston metro area with record-breaking floodwaters and high winds. To avoid chaos on the highways, there was no mass evacuation order for the city's 2.3 million residents. But most homes and buildings were no match for the unprecedented storm.


Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Local first responders and the Coast Guard are working around the clock to rescue people from roofs and attics as the waters rise. But their numbers and resources, particularly those of the aquatic variety, are limited.

Thankfully, there are ordinary heroes among us too.

These are the people who aren't afraid to step up and lend a hand, even in the face of danger or uncertainty. Here are 11 of their stories.

1. Abe Minor planned to rescue his friends. Soon, he was rescuing dozens more.

Once his friends were safe, Minor kept going, rescuing as many as 20 different people and their pets. And he's going back out today.

2. Cole Geeo put his monster truck to good use and went out to help.

Geeo saw the coverage on the news and knew he (and his 8-foot-tall truck) could be of assistance. Using a few ladders, Geeo was able to help his neighbor Deborah Wright get down from her second floor and into his truck.

"That's a redneck rescue, I do believe," Wright's coworker Dina Young Gray told local ABC affiliate WFAA.

3. Even 15-year-old Declan took to the water to help his neighbors in the Meyerland area of Houston.

Way to go, Declan!

4. These men waded into waist-deep water to help a stranger clinging tight to a road sign.

They used a refrigerator as a float to get to the man, then created a human chain to get through the rushing water.

5. This preacher went door-to-door to make sure nobody was stranded in these submerged cars.

When it was time to step up, he put his values into action.

6. Animals are in dire need, too. That's why Alicia Plunkett did her part to keep Houston's bats from drowning.

It may sound small, but in the wake of the storm and standing water, the region will be be inundated with mosquitos and the diseases they carry. Bats can assist with that problem, but only if they're alive to help.

7. Storm tracker Aaron Jayjack found a lost dog. And his story has a yappy, er, happy ending.

Jayjack stopped for gas, and the sweet pup jumped into his car. Jayjack used social media to help find the dog's owner, and the pair was reunited.

8. Local and national journalists continue to prove their mettle during this storm. A local news team helped first responders save the life of a stranded trucker.

The powerful moment of everyday heroics was captured by the crew.

9. And CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera joined local college student Austin Seth on his civilian search-and-rescue mission.

Lavandera continued to report the story while rescuing families and helping them into Seth's flatboat.

10. As a thank you to the reporters covering the storm and its aftermath, this woman delivered a six-pack on air.

It may not be strictly heroic, but in a weekend full of hardship, uncertainty, and tragedy, a little levity can go a long way.

11. Once people are rescued, they need a place to go. This screenwriter stepped up to run a shelter.

When the community of Rockport opened a shelter at an elementary school but didn't leave anyone in charge, screenwriter Zachary Dearing stepped up to the challenge. With no emergency response training, he took stock of the situation and recruited volunteers to help people get resources and organize visitors. Bravo!

Whether you're driving a flatboat around Houston picking up strangers or sending money from Seattle, there are plenty of ways to help communities devastated by this storm.

You don't need a cape or even a uniform to be a hero, just a willingness to lend a hand. Here are a few places to start.

Because near or far, when natural disasters happen, we're in this together. Thanks to everyone doing their part.

Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

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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