It costs a lot of money to be sick in America. A LOT of money.

Many Americans learn this the hard way by going to the E.R. without insurance, or by realizing that health care is still expensive even with insurance, or by getting an outrageous medical bill in the mail.

And some people find that out because they get a case of appendicitis the morning before they're supposed to tape "The Daily Show."


Al GIFs via "The Daily Show."

OK, maybe that has only happened to one person ever. But it did happen — to Trevor Noah, the new host.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 2.49.50 PM.png

Via this tweet.

Trevor was born in South Africa and has spent most of his life outside the United States, blissfully unaware of what it's like to have a medical emergency in America — until last week, when he had to get an emergency appendectomy. Or as he (sarcastically) called it, “the world's shortest vacation."

Trevor had quite a bit to say about our health care system when he came back to the show after his surgery.

“A lot of people ask me, 'Trevor, what's it gonna be like commenting on America if you're not from America?'" he said on his first day back. “And I was like, 'Well, I'm gonna have to experience America.' And what better way than enjoying America's health care system for myself?"

His unexpected American Health Care System 101 experience demonstrated some of the biggest problems with U.S. health care.

Of course, he created an episode of the show to teach us about these things. Here they are:

1. You end up with a huge medical bill.

That whole not dying thing? It can get pricey.

A couple of years ago, one guy put his medical bills from his appendectomy on Reddit, and the post went viral.

It's easy to see why: The time he spent under the knife cost him 16 grand, but his charges from the hospital stay totaled $55,000. Things like room and board ($4,878), the recovery room ($7,501), and a CT scan ($6,983) were responsible for the difference.

Luckily, that guy (and Trevor Noah) had insurance, which covered the majority of those costs. But millions of Americans still don't have health coverage — often because they can't afford it, they're undocumented, or they fall into the Medicaid gap.

And the kicker? The U.S. government actually spends more money per capita on health care than countries with universal health care coverage. ¯\\_(ツ)_/¯

2. You have to wait for a long time. Like, a really long time.

The average wait time to be seen by a doctor in the E.R. is 24 minutes. That's a lot of time when you're having a health emergency. And in some places, the wait time is much higher (you'll wait for 54 minutes if you're in a Washington, D.C., hospital, for example).

3. If you need time to recover from your hospital visit, you might not get it in America.

Trevor only took one night off, but Comedy Central told him he could take as long as he needed to bounce back from his appendicitis. In reality, though, most employees in America don't get that kind of leeway.

In the U.S., if you or a family member faces a health emergency, you may not be able to take off work at all. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) doesn't cover a lot of low-income workers, who might get fired if they take a couple of days off to recover from a health emergency.

And even if you do qualify for FMLA leave, the U.S. doesn't require employers to grant any paid leave — only 12 weeks of unpaid time off.

The good news is that things are looking up.

Since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, 31 states have expanded Medicaid and millions of uninsured Americans have gotten health coverage!

However, there are still folks who aren't insured, which means they can't get good access to quality health care. That's why it's important for all of us to continue fighting for health equity every day.

Check out the "Daily Show" video to hear more from Noah (and to get a few laughs in).

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.

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