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The wonderful reason nurses have been sharing their love for George Michael.

'Thank you for everything you do — some people appreciate it.'

In the wake of George Michael's untimely passing on Christmas 2016, many people have come forward to show their appreciation and recount his numerous philanthropic acts.

Photo by Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images.

His consistent support of the nursing community, however, deserves a special spotlight.

He even gave nurses, like those for the U.K's National Health Service, tickets to concerts he wasn't even playing.


Retired nurse Sally Lyons' experience at one particular concert speaks volumes about Michael's overwhelming generosity.

He played a free concert exclusively for nurses at the Roundhouse in Camden, North London, on Dec. 20, 2006. She was lucky enough to score one of six tickets that were reserved for the hospice center where she worked.

She and her colleagues had been on their feet all day and weren't exactly thrilled about standing for another few hours. Then George Michael took the stage, and they burst with excitement.

Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images.

"[He] told us he’d played in front of crowds all over the world but was anxious because he’d never performed in front of so many heroes before," wrote Lyons for Roundhouse.

Michael went on to play what Lyons describes as an "amazing set" that she and her colleagues would never forget. And they weren't the only ones.

"He made all of us feel special. People do say thank you, but for George to say it publicly feels good," nurse Susan Steadman told the BBC.

Photo by Adrian Dennis/Getty Images.

It's likely Michael's initial appreciation for nurses began when his mother, Lesley, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 1997 at only 60 years old.

The statement he made when he announced the free concert for NHS nurses in 2006 said it all:

"The nurses that helped my family at that time were incredible people and I realized just how undervalued they are."

Despite how much nurses do for their patients, the profession doesn’t often receive the accolades it deserves. Having a music legend like George Michael always advocate for nurses, however, made a difference.

Photo by Valerie Hache/Getty Images.

Michael gave back wherever he could and usually tried to keep his philanthropy  anonymous. He donated royalties from some of his most famous songs to HIV-related charities like the Terrence Higgins Trust and The Cara Trust's London Lighthouse project on HIV and AIDS hospice. He even tipped a bar server £5,000 ($6,128) to help her pay off her student nurse debt.

In a way, his passing on Christmas was fitting because his acts of generosity now serve as a timely reminder for all of us to show our appreciation, especially toward unsung heroes like nurses.

He made it quite clear at his thank you concert for NHS nurses 10 years ago: "Society calls what you do a vocation, and that means you don't get paid properly. Thank you for everything you do — some people appreciate it."

"George has had ups and downs but as we were heroes to him, he will always be a hero to all of the nurses at the Roundhouse that night," recounted Lyons.  

Nurses are invaluable for what they do everyday on the job. Hopefully the appreciation Michael showed nurses in his lifetime will continue to shine a light on them for years to come.

Photo by Samuel Kubani/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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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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