I'm sick and tired of this.

Police escort family members of employees of the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, the site of yet another mass shooting Wednesday. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Images.


I'm sick and tired of watching helplessly as innocent people are gunned down nearly every. single. day. for no reason at all.

I'm sick and tired of hearing there's no way to prevent this.

I'm sick and tired of being told not to make this political. The only people who benefit from "not making this political" are those who don't want anything to change.

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

I'm sick of tired of hearing that the rate of gun murder has nothing to do with the availability of guns. Yes, it very much does.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that killers will kill with or without guns. Yes, some will still try — with knives, or bats, or their own fists. But it will be much easier to stop them before they cause mass carnage.

I'm sick and tired of hearing politicians say, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims." You know what's better than thinking and praying? Doing something.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

I'm sick and tired of being reminded that it's actually illegal for the federal government to research gun violence. That's absurd.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that stricter gun laws won't make a difference. After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia banned most private gun sales, bought back hundreds of thousands of firearms, and severely restricted who was legally allowed to own them. Guess what? It hasn't had a mass shooting since.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that more people die in car accidents, so it would be hypocritical to do anything.

No they don't. Not anymore. (And the fact that we don't do more about road fatalities is also shameful and shocking.)

Gun deaths are expected to surpass traffic fatalities this year. Photo by Mark Ralston/Getty Images.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that I need a "good guy with a gun" to protect me. You know who probably thought he was a "good guy with a gun?" Robert Dear, who allegedly said, "No more baby parts" after shooting up a Planned Parenthood clinic. He thought he was being a hero. You know who else probably thought he was a "good guy with a gun?" Dylan Roof, who believed he was avenging the victims of "black-on-white crime" by mowing down old women and children at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

I don't need a "good guy with a gun." I need the bad guy with a gun to never have a gun in the first place. Or, if that's too much of a bother, I need the police. The police are far from perfect — and frankly, need to take a good long look at how often, and against whom, they use their own guns — but in a mass shooter situation? Give me a trained, professional police officer over a rando with a chip on his shoulder and a delusional "Die Hard" fantasy any day of the week.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that "None of this would have happened if only the victims had been armed." The cops at that Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs? They were armed. They still got shot. The military police at Fort Hood, Texas, were sure-as-shit armed, and 14 people still lost their lives, many of them soldiers trained to fight in one of the best-equipped, most professional armies in the history of the world. The notion that things would have turned out differently if the county employees in San Bernardino or the schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary were packing heat is laughable and obscene.

I'm sick and tired of seeing this tweet go viral every few days:


And hoping to God it's not true, while believing — with ever-increasing certainty — that it is.

I'm sick and tired of more deranged open-carry laws being passed in this country, and having to worry that now every minor argument with a stranger has the potential to turn into a violent standoff.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that I should be afraid — very afraid — of desperate, impoverished refugees when thousands upon thousands more people are shot to death by American citizens every year.

Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images.

I'm sick and tired of hearing that the problem is only illegal guns, when nearly every mass shooter in the last six years acquired their guns legally. At least two of the guns used in the shooting in San Bernardino were purchased legally.

I'm sick and tired of living in a country where — in most places — buying a deadly firearm is almost as easy as buying a sandwich.

I'm sick and tired of this being the new normal.

Children pray for the victims of the October shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

I'm sick and tired of this being told that even the most basic, no-brainer, common-sense gun laws will never be passed because it's not a winning political issue. The only way to make it one is to call your senators, representative, state legislator, mayor, county treasurer, school board president, or dog catcher and not shut up about it until they can't brush it off any longer.

Because something has to change. Now. Not later.

Because I'm heartbroken. I'm scared. I'm furious.

I'm sick. And tired.

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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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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Paskas explained to local NBC affiliate WFLA, “We just didn’t know it was okay to talk. We were under the impression, being children of divorce, that the ex and the new never intermingle, so it was like, best to stay away. So that’s kind of how we dealt with the first four years.”
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