There's a lot to love about America. Freedom of religion. Freedom of assembly. Freedom to dress casually on Friday.

...though the frozen treat is mandated by federal law. Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images.


But perhaps the most cherished American freedom of all is the freedom to call the governor of your state an asshole to their face whenever you damn well feel like it.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, for example. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

That's exactly what Florida resident Cara Jennings did when she came face-to-face with Gov. Rick Scott in a Starbucks yesterday.

But ... why would anyone want to yell at Rick Scott?

He looks nice.

Photo by Joe Radle/Getty Images.

I mean, just look at those teeth. Such clean teeth!

Jennings had three reasons, it turns out. And they're pretty big ones.

1. "You cut Medicaid, so I couldn't get Obamacare," Jennings accused.

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone has to buy health coverage or face a tax penalty. But what if you can't afford insurance? According to the law, anyone who makes up to 138% of the poverty line is eligible for Medicaid, and anyone who makes between 138% to 400% of the poverty line can have their coverage subsidized if they buy a plan from their state or federal exchange.

In theory, anyway.

The catch is, the ACA is a federal law, and Medicaid is a state program. The federal government can't force the states to expand it to include higher-earning people if they don't want to. So the federal government gave the states a huge carrot to get them to do so: offering to pay for the expansion in full until 2020, and 90% after that. Basically a total win-win.

Thanks, Obama. Photo via iStock.

But Florida, under Scott, refused (after saying he'd take the money in 2013). Which, essentially, means that anyone in Florida who makes more than poverty wages but less then a living wage is pretty much out of luck.

Jennings isn't exactly correct to say Scott cut Medicaid. But it is true that his government rejected a pretty no-brainer expansion of Medicaid that wouldn't have cost the state a dime for seven years. And in doing so, he put affordable health care out of reach for many, many Floridians.

2. "A million jobs? Great! Who here has a great job?"

As Jennings shouted in his general direction, Scott boasted that Florida has added 1 million jobs in his tenure. He's (close enough to) right!

Jennings replied that these jobs mostly kind of suck. And she's also kind of right.

Florida's economy. Photo by M. Minderhoud/Wikimedia Commons.

Scott has faced criticism that many of the jobs his state has added since he took charge don't really pay all that well — and there's some evidence to support this claim. A 2014 United Way report found that over half of all jobs in the state paid less than $15 an hour, and sectors that offer low-paying jobs have been among the fastest-growing.

There's some evidence that this has begun to change recently, but it's hard to blame Jennings for feeling frustrated.

3. "You stripped [women] of access to public health care."

According to WFTS-TV in Gainsville, Jennings had been "reading about Scott signing a bill that cuts money for Planned Parenthood and seized the opportunity to speak her mind."

And it's true! Scott signed a bill in March stripping state funding from clinics that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood.

Really? This again. Still with this? Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services. It also provides plenty of other services, including cancer screenings, contraception, and STD/STI testing. Cutting funding puts those services in jeopardy.

As the gutsiness of Jennings' epic rant makes clear, when it comes to holding politicians to account, politeness can be kinda overrated.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, learn that shouting at a stranger in a coffee shop is rude. But these are big issues that affect real people! And when, if ever, else was Jennings going to have an unscripted conversation with the governor responsible?

Like most politicians, Rick Scott undoubtedly spends a lot of time surrounded by lots of people who agree with him. If not for a lady in a Starbucks yelling at him, when's he gonna hear about it?

So if you feel the need, by all means, yell at your governor.

Still. Those teeth. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

It's the American way.

Fine print: Upworthy does not expressly endorse yelling at your governor. There are many, many situations where this might not be appropriate or advisable. Though, if you want to yell at your governor, you have the constitutional right to. Upworthy does endorse the Constitution of the United States.

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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