What can you learn about someone from seeing their bedroom?

There are all kinds of theories about how things like color and clutter can convey everything from romantic viability to mental health and so much more. But suffice to say: Those private places where we rest our heads can sure reveal a lot.

Perhaps a better question is: What can you learn about people in general from seeing lots and lots and lots of bedrooms?

That's what French photographer John Thackwray wanted to know.


As part of that vaguely-defined group of '80s and '90s babies known as "millennials," Thackwray saw firsthand how technology was changing the world at increasingly rapid rates and began to wonder about the impact that was having on his generation all around the world. What was the relationship between internet connectivity and inequality and things like education, women's rights, and poverty?

What better way to find out than to look at people's bedrooms?

A map of everywhere that Thackwray shot a "My Room" photograph. ​All photos by John Thackwray/My Room Project.

Over a period of six years, Thackwray photographed and interviewed more than 1,200 young people in their bedrooms (or other sleeping spaces) in 55 different countries.

Like him, they were all millennials. Thackwray found his subjects with the help of friends, social media, and local NGOs — although he did occasionally ask random people on the street if he could photograph their bedrooms, which was just as awkward, and as dangerous, as one could imagine.

But it also helped him learn a lot along the way.

"Each person has their own story and they can talk about something that is wider and more universal. [...] such as living into the war, adoptions, the traditional values, the rural exodus, or the African unity for example. I’m trying to do a big story in a small one," he explained.

Take a look at some of Thackwray's personal favorites and see for yourself what kinds of patterns or other surprising things you notice.

1. Room #24: Joseph, 30, an artist in Paris

2. Room #192: Andreea, 24, a civil engineer in Bucharest, Romania

3. Room #205: Gullé, 29, an actress in Istanbul, Turkey

4. Room #219: Maleeq, 28, an entertainer in New York City

5. Room #256: Ryoko, 25, an IT engineer in Tokyo

6. Room #290: Yuan, 22, a seller in Dali, China

7. Room #313: Fha, 20, a farmer in Ban Sai Ngam, Thailand

8. Room #348: Asha, 17, a housewife in Bamansemilya, India

9. Room #385: Pema, 22, a Buddhism student in Kathmandu, Nepal

10. Room #416: Oleg, 24, a telecom engineer in Novosibirsk, Russia

11. Room #458: Zhalay, 18, a high school student in Zhambyl, Kazakhstan

12. Room #466: Élahé, 29, a painter in Tehran, Iran

13. Room #561: Ben, 22, a movie student in Dallas

14. Room #665: Marcello, 18, a high school student in La Paz, Bolivia

15. Room #711: Claudio, 24, an archivist in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

16. Room #733: Fatou, 17, a seamstress in Thiès, Senegal

17. Room #807: Mohamad, 18, a high school student in Saint Catherine, Egypt

18. Room #867: Ezekiel, 22, a warrior-nomad in Echo Manyata, Kenya

19. Room #915: Josee, 22, an accounting student in Kigali, Rwanda

20. Room #1049: Osia, 18, a shepherd in Ha Selomo, Lesotho

21. Room #1093: Sabrina, 27, a kindergarten teacher in Shatila, Lebanon

These photos are all clearly similar in their bird's eye views of smiling subjects. But they have more in common than one might notice at first glance.

"Most of them share an access to Internet and social network, including Saudi young women and farmers in the African bush. This is definitely the connected generation," Thackwray said. "And something important to keep in my mind is that this is the youth who is designing the world of tomorrow."

They also all have items of personal significance that they keep close to them — which perhaps isn't surprising, but is still a moving reminder that we all fall into the same habits, and seek those small moments of happiness in surprisingly similar ways.

"Many people confuse comfort and happiness," Thackwray said. "Actually I've see more smiles in poor countries, and much more depression in developed countries."

The private places where people sleep reveal a lot about us as individuals. But viewed together, they make a powerful statement about how we all seek solace and serenity, despite our differences in race, religion, gender, career, income, and experience.

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.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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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.

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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