Heroes

Upworthy fans have already helped save dozens of dogs displaced by the Texas storm

After battling the snow, Rex gets a third chance to find the perfect home

Upworthy fans have already helped save dozens of dogs displaced by the Texas storm

Meet Rex -- a sweet, beautiful, collie mix. Originally adopted from a Tyler, Texas animal shelter at just 12-weeks-old, Rex's family could no longer keep him and returned him to the shelter when he was only four.

Last week in the wake of the horrible storms in Texas, generators gave out and shelters lost power. The pipes burst and water was cut off. The lack of water, power, and other resources created a dire situation with many pets at risk of euthanasia in shelters across Texas.



Rex was at such a shelter in Tyler that didn't have a plan to keep their pets safe through the terrible winter storm. The horrible reality is they were intending on euthanizing these animals before they froze to death or went any longer without water, as they had little to no resources they felt they had no other choice.

As overnight temperatures remained below freezing, the staff and volunteers at Austin Pets Alive! continued working around the clock to ensure there wasn't a moment when the animals were unsafe. They needed immediate help to keep up their heroic efforts.

At GOOD/Upworthy, we issued a quick call to arms to aid their life-saving efforts. In a few hours, you helped raise over $17,000.

Thanks to the efforts of everyone who donated, volunteered, and worked tirelessly with Austin Pets Alive! they were able to save Rex and 30+ others just like him by coordinating a lifesaving rescue transport with their friends at Wright-Way Rescue in the Chicago area.

Rex wasn't so sure about getting out of the van after the 14-hour drive, but these amazing people were patient and helped him get ready to hop back into the snow.

Now, a Texas dog named Rex who spent most of his young life in a rural shelter is in a warm foster home outside of Chicago. Soon enough, he'll learn that snow can be fun, and life can be happy, and love is all around him.

We're so grateful that our readers came together to help Austin Pets Alive! save Rex and his friends, and that they're going to be safe now at Wright-Way Rescue. This shelter is not slowing down anytime soon and continues to coordinate a widespread effort to reach more rural shelters throughout Texas that might need help.

Austin Pets Alive! is urgently working with shelter partners, with the goal of transporting 1,000+ animals to safe shelters throughout the United States in the next two weeks. The biggest need at this time is for organizations that can safely transport pets. Austin has become the safest city in the country for shelter pets, but the rest of Texas isn't yet there, which is why these transports are so crucial. To help make these transports happen, please give to Austin Pets Alive! here.

You can also learn more and give to Wright-Way Rescue, which focuses on saving pets throughout rural America. As their mission states, it is in these extremely remote locations that help and hope for homeless pets is still at a minimum.

Together, we can work to save all the dogs. And if you live in the midwest you can apply to adopt Rex (and then send us lots of photos!).

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.

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