Sorry, people, we need to politicize this one.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

On Oct. 1, a gunman reportedly opened fire from a hotel window, killing dozens at a country music concert in Las Vegas.


The massacre was shocking because of its size — at least 58 dead and 400 injured — but, truthfully, not surprising. According to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have already been 338 mass shootings in 2017 — a rate of more than one per day. The Las Vegas attack wasn't even the only entry on Sunday.

Predictably, gun company lobbyists are already storming the barricades, urging concerned citizens not to read too much into it. Early Monday morning, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch posted on Twitter to ask outraged gun control advocates to "temper [their] desire for politics while the facts come in."

Indeed, skepticism is always warranted, prudence is wise, patience is a virtue, etc., etc., etc. On another context-free, history-free planet, Loesch might have a point. But we've been here before.

Too many times.

"Thoughts and prayers" aren't gonna cut it. We need action.

By sheer macabre coincidence, the United States Congress is currently considering a bill that would lift restrictions on purchasing gun silencers.

The legislation, introduced by South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, ends the nine-month waiting period currently required to purchase "sound suppressors" and eliminates a measure requiring buyers to submit fingerprints and a photo. Given the news out of Las Vegas, the timing could not be worse, though with a mass shooting taking place at the rate of roughly once a day, it would almost be weirder if one didn't occur while the bill was being considered.

While the bill's supporters characterize it as designed to help hunters and target-shooters prevent hearing loss, it doesn't take an expert to realize that, in the wrong hands, the result could be deadly. After all, it's harder to save oneself from a mass shooting (or for law enforcement to find the shooter) if it's harder to hear that one is taking place. In an opinion piece for USA Today, Virginia Tech massacre survivor Jeff Twigg railed against the bill, insisting that he only managed to escape because he heard loud gunshots.

Not politicizing mass shootings like Las Vegas does serve a political end — it helps gun rights absolutists slip measures like this by.

The silencer bill is proceeding with the full support of the firearm industry, which is looking for new revenue streams after suffering a post-Obama reported decline in sales. They know it's political, and they're making it so. They're counting on the vast majority of Americans who support tighter gun laws shrugging, praying, and moving on.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Proponents of the measure might point to the fact the Las Vegas shooter likely used an automatic weapon and that fully automatic weapons made after 1986 are already illegal to own. Or that the guy probably didn't use a silencer. Yes, there are all sorts of reasons why stopping this specific bill would not have prevented this specific shooting. Or the last specific shooting. Or the one before that or the one before that.

But no mass shooting looks exactly like the one before it.

Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen used a (legally obtained) semi-automatic rifle and pistol to kill 49 and wound dozens more. Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho also purchased his pistols legally. Christopher Dorner, who killed four colleagues and their family members in a span of just over a week in 2013, used a silencer to avoid detection for days.

Lax, patchy gun laws make loopholes easier to find and exploit. While the silencer bill may not map 1:1 onto the next act of mass killing, it does provide potential killers another deadly option.

Mass shootings aren't inevitable.

They are the result of choices we — and our government — make. It's not a coincidence that countries with stricter gun laws have far fewer of them.

In order to stop the next one, we can't just hope and think and pray. We have to actually try. Stopping the silencer bill is a place to start.

The Las Vegas shooting was evil. It was also political.

Politicize it.

Correction 10/3/17: An earlier version of this piece identified the main author of the "silencer" bill as California Rep. Duncan Hunter. The bill was introduced by South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan.

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.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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