Hong Kong asked the leading PR firms to spin pro-democracy protests. They all said no.

After over a hundred days protests and demonstrations over basic freedoms in Hong Kong, the city has been ground down both emotionally and economically. So, the government there is looking for leading PR firms to rehabilitate its somewhat authoritarian image with the rest of the world. Only one problem, they're all saying no.


Hong Kong protester

It started in June when Hong Kong's legislature, a government that is an ostensibly independent and democratic institution, tried to introduce the now infamous 'extradition bill' that would allow the Chinese government to arrest anyone they wanted, including foreign visitors and journalists, and process them through the judicial system on the mainland. A system infamous for existing mainly to silence political opposition to the Central Committee.



Well, Hong Kong's citizens weren't having it, they took to the streets to make it known that they were not going to be stripped of their essential freedoms and rights without a fight. After almost four months protests where airports, business, mass transport, and many streets were shut down the government took the law off the table. It marked a huge victory not just for Hong Kong but for democratic peoples all over the world.

The protracted ordeal brought a lot of attention to Hong Kong. and a lot of unsurprisingly bad press for the government, some of it given on Upworthy. So, they tried to hire a marketing firm to put a positive spin on the story in the rest of the world.

In a revealing investigative report, The Guardian obtained a 75-page document outlining Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's project to get celebrated public relations firms to take on the project of image rehabilitation, and it reads like a George Orwell novel came to life and after going to Law School got a job as a marketing executive.

Now they're scrambling to let "people living outside Hong Kong aged 25-45, business persons, investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, opinion leaders, think tanks, government officials, politicians, high-income leisure and business travelers," know that the "one country, two systems" thing is working great and there's absolutely nothing to worry about so please spend and invest your money here!

They even listed the key markets, which include places like Washington D.C., San Francisco, New York, Japan, and Europe, where the campaign needs to happen. The reason for this is because Hong Kong has always been and remains an interesting nexus between the Chinese communist authorities and the West's democratic, free-market institutions. And the influx of money and business is essential.

But they're having some issue getting anyone to take on the toxic account. In a press conference, reported on by Reuters, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's administrator, said that of the eight firms were approached four said no right off the bat.



One of the companies, Ogilvy, simply gave the excuse that they didn't have enough resources for the project. That had to have hurt. Ogilvy is a huge marketing firm with offices all over the world.

There was also an ad taken out in the Australian Financial Times that tells investors that whatever they're seeing or hearing isn't the whole story, and that no one knows anything really, and basically, Fake News.

They're struggling and it's karma if nothing else. One agency source in a Holmes Report article "If you want an absolutely living, breathing example of why they've got problems, it's to put out a multifaceted RFP while the streets are on fire…It was completely misjudged."

On top of that demonstrations persist in Hong Kong, this time against the myriad of other authoritarianesque laws that have been passed over the last twenty years. So if anything Hong Kong's government has not in any way improved its position with its people or with the rest of the world. We're all still watching and waiting for them to do the right thing.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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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.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

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