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These brothers know how people should be treated. That's why they're helping them move on.

These 'Meatheads' just launched a viral campaign to end domestic violence.

Moving to a new place is stressful even under normal circumstances.

But for those in violent relationships, it can be a lot more complicated. Worries are not just "Where's my phone charger?" and "Do I have enough packing tape?" but "How do I safely get myself and my kids out of the house before my partner gets home?" The logistical and financial challenges can make it that much harder to leave a dangerous situation.

Heartbreakingly, this kind of situation is more common than you'd think. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by a partner in their lifetime.


That's where Meathead Movers comes in.

Photo courtesy of Meathead Movers.

After getting requests from cash-strapped folks trying to flee abusive relationships, Aaron and Evan Steed, cofounders of Meathead Movers, began quietly helping men and women move for free in the late 1990s.

"When I first received a frantic phone call... I could hear the sheer desperation, fear, and panic through the phone," CEO Aaron Steed recounted in an email interview. "My brother and I knew that we needed to jump in our truck and get there as soon as we could. Accepting payment was the last thing on our mind."

"Real men don't hit women." Photo courtesy of Meathead Movers.

After that initial call, the brothers visited local shelters and let them know about the services they were offering. By 2001, they had developed formal partnerships with a number of shelters to help coordinate safe relocations.

And earlier this year, Meathead Movers took things one step further by launching the #MoveToEndDV pledge. Their goal? To challenge other businesses to think about how they can help people move on from domestic violence situations.

Already, 83 business have taken the #MoveToEndDV pledge, including a yoga studio, massage therapists, other moving companies, a mortgage broker, and more.


"Take the Pledge." Meathead Movers website.

For Aaron Steed, it's been amazing to see the creative ways that other businesses are finding to contribute. "Even ones that you think could have nothing to do with helping victims of domestic violence are finding a way to get creative and make a real impact," he explains.

David Wilson, a former high school economics teacher turned vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate in San Luis Obispo, California, plans to teach financial literacy classes at a local women's shelter to help domestic violence survivors regain their financial footing. "Oftentimes controlling the finances is part of [domestic violence], so they need to re-establish the bank accounts and credit," he told me in a phone interview.

Ruthann McKenzie. Photo by RPM Designs.

For Ruthann McKenzie, founder of Just Be Confident, a women's coaching company in Sunrise, Florida, taking the pledge had personal meaning. Four years ago, she fled an abusive relationship with her 4-month-old.

"I wanted those who have experienced domestic violence or are currently going through it to know that there is hope and they can be brave," she said in an email interview.

Now an advocate for domestic violence survivors, McKenzie's business offers a free e-course and mentors young women who have experienced homelessness and domestic violence.

Photo courtesy of Meathead Movers.

In addition to helping people escape abusive homes, the Steeds hope to show their young employees — student athletes working their way through school — that, as Aaron put it, "domestic violence lurks in even the most perfect seeming lives [and] homes."

He never could have imagined that a decision he made nearly 20 years ago could take on a life of its own. "I am surprised and humbled by the viral nature of this campaign," Aaron says. And he's put forth a moving challenge for other businesses:

"We challenge all businesses to get creative and figure out how they can help victims of domestic violence."

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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