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A heartbreaking photo of a Syrian child went viral. Here are 3 things we can do about it.

We can't unsee that photo of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh. But now, we have a choice: We can turn away, or we can do something about it.

By now you've probably seen that startling photo of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh from Aleppo, Syria.

Plenty of other powerful and arresting moments have been caught on camera since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. But none of them have managed to send shockwaves around the world quite like this photo, taken by Mahmoud Raslan: a child dressed in dust and soot and a "CatDog" T-shirt, propped up in a bright orange ambulance seat that pops in sharp contrast to his ashen, gray appearance. He's young enough that he could even share a birthday with the raging conflict that still consumes his country — and judging by the blank expression on his bloodied, battered face, he may have lived his entire life in a war zone, too.

It's certainly an arresting image, and it's easy to understand why so many people have responded to it.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that Daqneesh and his family all survived the hospital airstrike that led to the moment the photograph was taken. Between the Assad regime and ISIS, nearly 500,000 other Syrians haven't been as lucky.


Photo by Zein Al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images.

Over 18,000 of those casualties — including nearly 5,000 children — have come out of Aleppo, the city where Daqneesh and his family live. Military airstrikes from Russia and the Syrian government have targeted medical facilities in Aleppo held by rebels and humanitarian aid groups, in a blatant violation of Geneva Convention rules.

As a result, 95% of the doctors in the area have already fled the country, leaving only a handful of trained professionals to care for the 600 new urgent-care cases that happen every day in two hospitals. In fact, one of the very first casualties of the war was a cardiologist who was attending to injured protesters during the Arab Spring.

"By making it impossible for people to seek treatment when they were injured — even civilians and children and women who had nothing to do with the anti-government uprising but happened to live in areas that were under the control of opposition groups — they were being collectively punished," Ben Traub of the New Yorker explained in an interview with NPR.

Photo by Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

We can't un-see that photo of Daqneesh. But now, we have a choice: We can turn away, or we can do something about it.

And if you're one to pick the latter option, here are three ways to start.

1. Donate to the doctors on the ground who continue bringing aid despite the threat of monstrous attacks.

As Traub explained it, Assad's continued assaults on medical workers are "a strategy to make life completely unbearable" — basically, government-sanctioned terrorism.

But groups like the Syrian American Medical Society, INARA, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Medical Corps are out there risking life and limb to provide crucial care for those who need it most. You don't need surgery training of your own to help them out.

Photo by Zein Al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images.

2. There are plenty of first-response groups in Aleppo trying to protect and save innocent people before they become casualties, and they could use your help as well.

Groups like The White Helmets, Islamic Relief, and the International Rescue Committee are in Syria, searching for victims after these horrendous airstrikes and finding ways to create some sort of "normal" society for them — providing beds, food, and education as best they can.

If more people volunteered their money and time, it would make it that much easier to make a difference.

Photo by Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Surviving through an armed conflict is a crucial first step. But people also need opportunities to build new communities and improve their lives.

Groups like the Karam Foundation, MercyCorps, UNICEF, and SOS Children's Villages provide educational programs to children along with that ever-important strategic training known as fun — giving children a chance at normalcy and relief, even in the most dire situations.

If you're interested in helping people of all ages get out of those scrappy, overcrowded refugee camps, you can donate to groups like Refugees Welcome, Migrant Offshore Aid Station, or the UNHCR. You can also take the time to educate yourself on your country's refugee entry policies and processes, and look into ways that your community can help improve those numbers and conditions.

Photo by Baraa Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images.

Maybe it was easier to ignore the Syrian refugee crisis before it had a human face.

We can't put that knowledge back in the box. But we can do our best to understand this crisis and try to make a difference.

It's easy to feel down or overwhelmed by the awful state of violence in the world. It's easy to ignore the things you've seen and return to the bliss you felt before Omran Daqneesh's heartbreaking visage filled your screen.

But if we all step up and do our part in small ways, we can make the world better for kids like Daqneesh. Because remember: Despite the savagery of that photograph, Daqneesh is still alive. All is not lost.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

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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A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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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.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

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

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