seal at pub, scottish seal, old lock and weir
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A seal and The Old Lock and Weir pub in England.

The Old Lock and Weir pub just outside of Bristol, England had a unique visitor stop by on Sunday, January 2 at about 11:30 in the morning, a seal pup somewhere between six and 12 months old. The seal swam up to the pub, which lies on the banks of the River Avon.

"It was amazing. Totally out of the blue," Dan Rawlins, the general manager of the pub, told the BBC. "It's not every day you expect to find a baby seal outside the pub," said bar and kitchen worker John Jefferies.

The seal, nicknamed Nacho by the pub staff, was a social little guy who seemed to be comfortable around humans. “He was moving around quite a lot and didn't seem too bothered about all the people around,” Rawlins told The Dodo.

Rawlins thinks that he probably walked up to the pub to get a bite to eat. Some fish and chips, maybe? Or possibly the pub’s signature prawn cocktail?

“As he was underweight, [he was] obviously attracted to the pub kitchen," Rawlins told The Dodo. "We're speculating that he was hungry."


The pub posted photos of the pup on its Facebook page and its regulars thought Nacho deserved a drink and some fish.

"Awww, bless wish I'd been there to see him, he's gorgeous, so glad he's safe now. Didn't he get a free pint and some fish after traveling l that way to visit you?" Marilyn Williams asked.

"Bless him! Amazing work all involved. He defo deserves a nice whiskey to warm the cockles and couple of fish before heading back to Scotland!" Christian Wiltshire wrote.

Rawlins called the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) for some advice about how to handle the pup and was told to let the animal return to the water.

The pub workers redirected Nacho to the water and it was high tide so he jumped in and swam away. However, about an hour later, he was back at the front door of the pub. “He'd come up the slipway, straight under the gate and then when we spotted him again, he was right outside the pub,” Rawlins said, according to The Scotsman.

The pub staff created a small pen using pallets to contain the seal and wrapped him in wet blankets to keep him comfortable. British Divers Marine Life Rescue safely retrieved Nacho and brought him to RSPCA West Hatch for treatment.

The rescuers scanned the seal’s tag and discovered he had made a 300-mile journey to Bristol from Scotland. They also learned he had lost a serious amount of weight. He had weighed 73 pounds when he was tagged but only 31 pounds after being rescued. It was also discovered Nacho had seal pox, which had caused some hair loss.

The seal is currently undergoing treatment and once the little guy puts on some extra blubber, the plan is to release him back to the sea. Sadly, he has yet to enjoy any of the fine food offerings at The Old Lock and Weir.

The RSPCA shared a photo of Nacho on Tuesday and he appears to be doing well.

“Nacho has come along really well since then and is enjoying a rest, after the journey to the pub,” the RSPCA wrote on Facebook. “He is eating well and is now 16.4 kg [36 pounds]. This means he will soon be moved into our larger pool, along with another one of our seals called Wool, so they can socialize with the other seals in there and get ready for release.”

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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