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How can you help out in Los Angeles? We counted 23 ways.

There's no shortage of things to do in sunny Southern California. And that's also true when it comes to helping others and doing something good for the community.

But with so many different things to do, it can be a wee bit tricky to know where and how you can be most effective. After all, where do you even start?


Well, we took care of that for you by breaking down concrete ways to help along with actionable steps, so you, my friend, do not have to worry. Just run through our handy how-to guide that has a little something for everybody:

1. Express your artistic side and help others hone their craft.

Organizations such as Inner-City Arts and Piece by Piece give volunteers a chance to help students gain confidence and creativity through the magic of painting, crafting, writing, and other art forms.

2.  Adopt a new member of the family at the zoo.

Image via Ricky Li/Flickr.

From amphibians to invertebrates, all animals in the L.A. Zoo are available for adoption. You can't take them home, of course, but your contribution will allow the L.A. Zoo to join international conservation efforts geared toward protecting all endangered species from extinction.

3. Help put a roof over the heads of people in need.

More than 46,000 people in L.A. are homeless on any given night. Luckily, you can donate or volunteer at organizations, such as PATH and the Downtown Women's Center, to help staff support those in need and create affordable permanent housing.

4. Be a big brother or sister to the next generation.

Image via iStock.

Everyone needs someone to look up to — and that someone could be you. Get involved with organizations like Spark and 100 Black Men of Orange County and mentor a young person.

5. Have loads of fun improving the environment.

Image via iStock.

Creating more parks and planting more trees can be more fun than you think when you do them with People for Parks and the TreePeople. From volunteer photography to in-house research to getting your hands dirty, there's an opportunity for everybody.

6. Lend a helping hand to people with disabilities.

Image via iStock.

Provide one-on-one assistance and have loads of fun helping others at AbilityFirst. Or, if you're looking for a much bigger role, you can take training programs to help people with disabilities at the CSUN Center on Disabilities.

7. Discover the teaching side you never knew you had.

Image via iStock.

Whether it's showing young people the ropes on writing with 826LA or teaching young women the value of building with their hands at DIY Girls, you might surprise yourself with how good an educator you are.

8. Become your own champion of LGBTQ rights.

Image via iStock.

When LGBTQ youth need guidance or just someone to talk to, The Trevor Project is there. In fact, you could be the one answering their call.

9. Help homeless individuals get back on their feet.

Image via iStock.

Volunteers at Imagine LA and Chrysalis provide job training and mentorship and even throw fun family events geared toward getting people's lives back on track.

10. Make sure as many people as possible have a hot meal.

Image via iStock.

Whether it's helping distribute unclaimed food with The Manna Room or providing food for thousands of hungry citizens regularly through the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, volunteers can fill up tummies and hearts at the same time.

11. Create access to safe water for people around the world.

Image via iStock.

783 million people worldwide still don't have access to clean water. Help make water as accessible as possible for communities in need by starting your own fundraiser through local organizations such as Wells Bring Hope.

12. Set up emergency relief packages for vulnerable communities.

Image via iStock.

Reach out to Operation USA or the International Medical Corps and donate your time, money, or even your airline miles to help give assistance when disaster strikes.

13. Unleash your inner scientist!

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A project called 9 Dots is creating a brighter future for kids in underserved communities who want to pursue a life in science. And guess what? You can tutor them after school or on the weekends to help get them there.

14. Get in the fight for human rights.

Image via iStock.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) helps victims escape the cycle of modern day slavery by connecting them with other survivors and getting volunteers to fight the good fight with them. You can conduct talks, be an in-house attorney, or even use your graphic design skills to help out.

15. Harness the power of technology to create change.

Image via iStock.

Free community Wi-Fi and affordable solar power? Yes, please! Open Neighborhoods is providing just that to connect communities and help Mother Nature in the process. Lead the charge now to connect your neighborhood and make the shift to solar.

16. Help former gang members find a new path in life.

Image via iStock.

Homeboy Industries provides assistance such as job training to gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women in order to help them find a new lease on life. Volunteers can help tutor and counsel participants and employers can even check out their talent pool for some emerging candidates.

17. Help prevent young people from entering gang life at all.

Image via iStock.

A Better LA focuses on community solutions to bring peace, order, and prevent the gang way of life from taking over in the first place. In fact, they're always looking for leaders just like you to help push the mission forward.

18. Park that car and stretch those legs for a cause.

Image via iStock.

CicLAvia has a straightforward plan: get people moving to promote better public health and cleaner air quality. Help out by getting your community to join, managing traffic, or just providing an extra set of hands.

19. Read, lead, and help your local library succeed.

Image via iStock.

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles provides people of all ages with different resources to help your local library. Whether through charitable donations or teaching others the value of reading, there's no shortage of ways to help.

20. Show how much you care about the coast.

Image via iStock.

With the help of Heal the Bay and Wildcoast, volunteers can help with beach cleanups, setting up educational events, or even just keeping a lookout and recording all the activity you see on the shore.

21. Reach out to an org to fund your own nonprofit.

Have an idea for a nonprofit that could help address an important issue? Reach out to the Goldhirsh Foundation or the Los Angeles Social Venture Partners and get your game-changing, life-altering idea out there.

22. Plant a garden and promote nutrition.

Image via iStock.

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and the Ron Finley Project are planting more urban garden spaces in underserved communities and giving them much-needed access to nutritional food. And they're always on the lookout for helping hands to help in the garden or in their offices.

23. Raise your voice and engage the public.

Image via iStock.

Communicating is a crucial part of implementing change. And that's what LA Voice is all about. You can donate to help get people's voices heard or volunteer to help train your community in the art of public speaking.

Whatever you're passionate about, there's always something you can do to help.

In fact, if you're looking for more options, you can always check out Do Good LA for a comprehensive list of ideas.

No matter your calling in life, there's an organization out there calling to you as well. So listen closely and listen good because the answer could change someone else's life forever.

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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