This is actress Priyanka Chopra.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC.

If you live in the U.S., you might recognize her from the TV series "Quantico." If you live in India, you might recognize her from just about everything.


The Bollywood super star is on the October-November 2016 cover of the Indian edition of Condé Nast Traveller magazine. But it didn't go over all that well.

Can you spot why?

Yep, people took issue with Chopra's tank top. It turns out looping "refugees" in with "outsiders" and "travelers" isn't the best way to broach the topic of the very real hardships refugees and immigrants face.

Backlash was swift, with many folks pointing out that having Priyanka Chopra, a wealthy A-list celebrity, striking a pose wearing the shirt on the cover of Condé Nast Traveller — a publication that caters to those fortunate enough to enjoy the luxuries of global tourism —  trivializes the plight of world refugees.

In other words, as Huffington Post blogger Arpita Das noted, the cover reflects "a privileged view of a global issue."

"The lack of choice in removing one's home and hearth from the familiar to the alien is one fraught with heartbreak and the feeling of being cornered," she wrote. "[It's] very different from picking out the next attractive destination on your bucket list and surfing through AirBnb for that perfect place to park oneself."

Das wasn't the only one who pointed out the problematic shirt. Plenty of people on Twitter noted how insensitive the cover came across on an issue we so desperately need to get right.

To some, it was a shallow way to get publicity.

For others, it was the lives of the rich and famous at their worst.

And really, shouldn't we keep in mind what simple wish refugees want most of all?

Both the magazine and Chopra released statements in the aftermath of the fallout apologizing for the mishap.

“[Condé Nast] specially got [the shirt] made and implored me to wear it," the actress told NDTV. "They said they were addressing xenophobia, which is a big issue that is happening."

She further explained (emphasis added):

“I am really, really apologetic about the fact that so many sentiments were hurt. I mean, that was definitely not the reason. Me, of all people, I'm someone who always stands for no labels. ... The point the magazine wanted to make was actually something good.”

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

In a post online, Condé Nast explained the decision to have Chopra wear the shirt (emphasis added):

"We believe that the opening up of borders and the breaking down of walls can help us discover the world, and open up our minds and hearts. So, when we had actor Priyanka Chopra wear a T-shirt we created on the cover of the 6th anniversary issue, we had a point to make. It’s about how our labelling of people as immigrants, refugees, and outsiders is creating a culture of xenophobia. ... It’s about how we are allowing some powerful leaders to build barriers that make it more difficult for bright, motivated, and hardworking people to see more of the world, learn from it, and make it better for us all."

Chopra and Condé Nast had good intentions. But they really did miss the mark — even in their apologies.

Both the magazine and Chopra expressed the idea that labels are the real problem. And, on paper, that notion seems to hit the nail on the head.

Who needs labels anyways? Don't they just pit us against one another?

In a perfect world, maybe labels would be a hinderance. But in the real one, labels are oftentimes necessary and important.

Syrian refugees staying on the island of Chicos. Due to conflict in their home country, the world is dealing with the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images.

For example, many people use terms like "refugee" and "immigrant" interchangeably.

Refugees are uprooted from their homes due to factors like war and natural disaster. Immigrants, on the other hand, have moved from one place to another voluntarily — maybe to better their own circumstances, yes, but they haven't been forcibly displaced in the same way refugees have.

Labels help us understand these differences so that we can address the important issues facing each group of people. It's not the labels that are the problem, it's what we do with them.

The shirt Chopra wore doesn't help us differentiate between a refugee and an immigrant (not to mention a tourist). Blurring the lines between groups like these — and overgeneralizing them — can reinforce dangerous misperceptions: that refugees are the ones responsible for recent terror attacks in the U.S., for instance, or that all immigrants from Mexico are undocumented immigrants.

Syrian refugees, who now live in Turkey and work in auto repairs. Photo by  Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images.

It matters that high profile publications and spokespeople get this right because, right now, the world is grappling with a massive influx of refugees.

The civil war in Syria has caused "the worst humanitarian crisis of our time," according to Mercy Corps, with millions of families forced to leave their communities. Kids are kept from going to school. Mothers and fathers struggle to feed their children. And often, families are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

If a magazine wants to find a way to address the refugee crisis, that's wonderful. But doing so takes care, context, and perspective — the type of nuance you can't convey on a cover model's tank top.

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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