For the very last time, President Obama and the first lady hosted a state dinner in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2016.

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They graciously welcomed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini, to the White House with open arms.

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.


And the two power couples showed the world why diplomacy is certainly the most fashionable way to go about foreign policy, that's for sure.

Photo by Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images.

Unsurprisingly, however, it was FLOTUS' dress that really got people talking.

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Because, yes, it was downright stunning.

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But the story behind why the first lady chose to wear it makes it an even more beautiful look.

The dress by Donatella Versace — who famously rescued her brother's company and turned it into a thriving Italian brand amid doubts she'd be able to do so — was a nod to the visiting prime minister and his wife. But Michelle Obama's choice to wear the rose gold shimmering waterfall of a gown had an even more underlying feminist message behind it, according to The New York Times.

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Michelle Obama's dress was made of chainmail — metal armor, essentially. And that speaks volumes about the type of message she wanted to send.

The gown was symbolic of female strength — a testament to the resiliency of a woman willing to fight for her beliefs and protect herself from bullies that might come along the way.

"When they go low, we go high," the first lady said on stage at the Democratic National Convention this past summer.

Her dress from Tuesday night summed that message up quite nicely.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The first lady rocked the Versace gown in the wake of what's being called "the most powerful speech of the 2016 campaign" — an address she gave to voters in New Hampshire about the dire need to respect girls and women.

“I can’t stop thinking about this," she said during her speech, citing Donald Trump's discussion of sexual assault caught on tape. "It has shaken to me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

"I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I’m sure that many of you do too, particularly the women," the first lady said. "The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman."

“I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong,” she concluded. “And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer — not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough."

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

Like other first ladies before her, Michelle Obama often wears gowns that send a message above and beyond aesthetics.

Her royal blue dress at the Democratic National Convention, for example, was designed by Christian Siriano, an artist recognized for body positivity and inclusiveness within the fashion industry. Its sentiments fell in line with her powerful speech illustrating the value of national togetherness.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

In 2009, when she wore a white gown by designer Jason Wu to the president's Inaugural Ball, it was chosen as a show of hope and refreshed optimism — turning the page, in a sense, as the country struggled to climb out of the Great Recession.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Michelle Obama's last state dinner is a tough pill to swallow for the many Americans who saw her as so much more than your standard first lady.

Much like her dress for this last state dinner, Obama's time in the White House represents what many of us aspire to be: strong, hopeful, and, even in the face of the most difficult of circumstances, having the ability to stay true to yourself.

Writing for The New York Times magazine, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie perfectly explained how the first lady's grit and resolve in the face of opposition shaped her into nothing short of an icon:

"The insults, those barefaced and those adorned as jokes, the acidic scrutiny, the manufactured scandals, the base questioning of legitimacy, the tone of disrespect, so ubiquitous, so casual. She had faced them, and sometimes she hurt and sometimes she blinked, but throughout, she remained herself."

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images.

So, yeah. After eight years of being the first lady, chain mail was the perfect choice.

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.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

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