Syrian government troops are attempting to capture the remaining sections of Aleppo, and its citizens are in grave danger.  

Aleppo Residents flee rebel-held areas of the city. Photo by Karam Al-Masri/Getty Images.

The humanitarian disaster, which has been ongoing for months, has gotten far worse in the past few days, with terrified residents, caught between government forces, Russian airstrikes, and rebel forces tweeting desperate pleas for help and final messages to loved ones. Reports of women committing suicide to avoid being raped and civilians being executed by regime forces have begun to filter out of the city.


Meanwhile, the once-thriving region has been reduced to rubble and chaos over the course of the past several months. Russia has announced an end to the military operation, claiming victory, and reports of a cease-fire between government and rebel forces have been issued, but both have yet to be confirmed by the United Nations at the time of this writing. 50,000 civilians are still believed to be in the eastern part of the city.

It's easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed and want to turn away from a story like this. The news is bleak — and likely to get bleaker. But those of us with the good fortune to live in safety have a responsibility to do what we can to help. And there are ways to help.

Most involve donating to organizations that are on the ground in or around Aleppo. We know not everyone has money to spare, but if you can make it work, providing much needed funds to these organizations is the most efficient way to assist at a crucial moment like this.

1. Support the White Helmets.

The White Helmets respond to the aftermath of an airstrike. Photo by Mohamed Al-Bakour/Getty Images.

Led by Raed Al-Saleh, this homegrown search-and-rescue force, which operates in rebel-controlled Syria, including Aleppo, has saved tens of thousands of their countrymen over the course of the conflict — pulling bombing victims out of rubble, raising money for prosthetics, and supporting the families of fallen comrades.

Some critics of the organization argue that the group hides a political mission, which advocates for regime change and policies that have exacerbated the violence. But right now, they're saving lives, and in a crisis moment, that matters more.

You can donate on their website.

2. Support Doctors Without Borders.

The aftermath of the destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital in Syria. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/Getty Images.

The global, nonpartisan medical relief organization is still active on the ground across the country, providing local medical facilities, which have been decimated by the war, with equipment, supplies, and, where possible, personnel.

You can give them money here.

3. Support the Syrian American Medical Society.

Medical professionals protest near the United Nations. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The group runs dozens of medical operations in Syria and the countries that have taken in the largest share of refugees from the war, treating nearly 3 million Syrians in 2015.

You can sign up to volunteer or donate here.

4. Support the International Rescue Committee.

The IRC supports people who flee war and conflict in countries around the world, including Syrian refugees.

Here's how to support them in turn.

5. Support Save the Children.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images.

Save the Children works with internally displaced and refugee children and families affected by the conflict.

You can read more about what they're doing and pledge support here.

6. Go to a protest, or start one.

Londoners and residents of Istanbul are taking to the streets to demand action from local officials on the growing crisis.

If you live in those cities, join them to demand action from local officials. Or organize a protest effort where you are.

7. Support refugees.

Aleppo residents flee the rebel-held section of town. hoto by Karam Al-Masri/Getty Images.

There are millions of them all over the world. The terrorization and dismemberment of Aleppo? This is what they're fleeing. This exactly.

Since refugees from the conflict started flooding into the West in 2011, their fate has become a political football, exploited by candidates and causes in countries across Europe and North America to stoke fear and win elections. This should stop. The most compassionate thing we can do is to put aside our fears of terror and the unfamiliar and give them a chance to rebuild their lives among us. And to give those who still suffer on the ground hope that there's a better life available to them, should they manage to escape.

You can donate to the UN Refugee Agency. Or Questscope, which provides education and counseling resources to refugees living in Jordan. Or the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which helps shepherd refugees making the perilous sea-crossing into Europe to safety.

More importantly, you can call your senator or congressperson and tell them that you won't support them if they don't support expanding the U.S.'s Refugee Admissions program to admit more than the woefully inadequate 10,000 Syrians we resettled in 2016.

What's happening in Aleppo isn't just a humanitarian tragedy, it's a moral crisis. It's a time to put aside our fears and apathy, to get real, and to act as best and as effectively as each of us can.

If we don't, we'll never stop asking ourselves why we didn't.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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Connections Academy

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

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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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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

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