Dad shares story about daughter's scary experience at a college party with star athlete. It's pretty great.

The NFL is by far America's favorite sports league, so when its players are charged with a violent crime, it's front page news. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Hernandez, Greg Hardy, and most recently Tyreek Hill, have all helped the NFL earn the moniker the “National Felon League.”

However, studies show that the arrest rate for NFL players is half that of men in the same age group. But, if it bleeds it leads, so when an NFL player makes a positive impact on the community, it rarely gets the attention it deserves.

That’s why everyone should know the name Dre Greenlaw.


Greenlaw, 21, was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday, April 27. The former linebacker Arkansas Razorback team captain was a four-year starter, amassing 320 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions during his college career.  

But for one Arkansas student, Greenlaw will be remembered more for his courage at a party than on the gridiron.

The story came to light after Greenlaw was drafted.

Greenlaw’s story goes way beyond the scope of sports. He was a great example for people everywhere on how to be on the look out for signs of sexual assault and how to do something about it.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one out of every four female undergraduates will be victim to some form of sexual assault before graduation.

Here are a few tips from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) to help fight back against sexual assault if you see something suspicious at a bar or a party.

Create a distraction

Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.

Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else.”

Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about.

Start an activity that draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.

Ask directly

Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.

Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”

Refer to an authority

Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like an RA or security guard.

Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in.

Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for someone else’s safety.

Enlist others

It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.

Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.

Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.

Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”

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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