Love Yourself and One Another in 2021

Happy New Year Everyone! 2020 was truly a year to remember.

For Dare to LEAD, last year was one filled with many accomplishments and a tremendous amount of growth. We became an official 501c3 nonprofit organization, which was huge. We then hosted our first event, making over 500 cards for essential healthcare workers. In September we hosted our largest event, in which we raised over $4500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, and then we connected with the homeless community in DFW by baking pies around Thanksgiving, and donating homemade blankets and socks to keep them warm during the winter season. We accomplished all of this while encouraging and educating youth in our area to be LEADers. We are forever grateful for how successful our initial months as an organization have been.

For the rest of the world, last year was one also filled with growth, however, a much more tragic growth relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Growth in numbers of cases, deaths, business bankruptcies, unemployed people, etc. Alongside these more physical and visible effects, a factor that many people have not discussed or realized was the growth in mental health issues among people, not just in the U.S., but around the world, due to this virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey which showed that the rates of depression and anxiety in the month of June in 2020 were three or four times higher than in June the year before. When comparing the weekly number of COVID-19 cases from April 23 to July 21, with a weekly estimate of the amount of Americans who experienced symptoms related to depression or anxiety on two separate graphs, the curves mirror each other, as shown below.

The increase in depression and anxiety in relation to the virus can be credited to mandated quarantines, self isolation while having the virus, unemployment, losing loved ones, lockdowns compromising a person’s freedom, the knowledge that oneself is at higher risk of death, and many more consequences of the disease. The increase in depression and anxiety can lead to an increase of suicides, if it has not already, meaning that the Coronavirus is causing deaths worldwide, in more ways than one.

The beginning of a new year unfortunately did not mean the end of the virus, however, vaccines are beginning to be distributed to the public, which brings light to the darker times that our country has been struggling with since spring of last year. There are ways to help prevent the spread of COVID, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home as often as possible, which we should all continue practicing until there is no need to anymore. However, for 2021, I suggest you set a resolution for yourself to ‘help prevent the spread’ of mental health conditions as well, and ensure that you and others around you are mentally healthy. Some ways you can do this are:

  • Talk about your feelings with others, and encourage them to talk about theirs. This enables people to grow closer as friends, vent if needed, receive advice, find the root of problems and emotions, and cry instead of holding back tears, because crying often restores emotional balance within a person.

  • Eat healthier, especially starting each day with a good breakfast, and encourage others to do so with you. Providing your body with the right nutrients benefits not only your physical health but your mental health as well, because your brain needs those nutrients just as much as your muscles do.

  • Some yummy “brain foods” that are recommended to eat before exams or just in your everyday life are: leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli; berries; walnuts; fatty fish; coffee; pumpkin seeds; dark chocolate; eggs; oranges; and many more! (just google “brain foods”)

  • Stay active, and encourage others to do so as well. The benefits of regularly exercising include sleeping better, enhancing concentration skills, and a higher self esteem, because of the confidence a healthy body can provide.

  • Ask for help. If you know someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, or is in emotional distress, please have them call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. If it is not to the point where someone is considering self harm, but they acknowledge that they need guidance when it comes to handling their emotions, encourage them to join a support group, or talk to a counselor/therapist.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 1 in 4 people over the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. It is much more common than people tend to believe. Calling a friend or family member that you have not spoken to in a while because of Coronavirus, or giving a compliment to a person that you do not normally talk to, can make all the difference.

The Dare to LEAD team encourages you to make 2021 the best year that it can be. Start each day with a grateful heart for new opportunities. Try to do more service in your community. Be a leader amongst your peers. Empower the people around you to be the best versions of themselves. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to make change in this world. Treat people with kindness, because you never truly know what someone is going through.

We will be posting more information and helpful tips about handling emotions and staying mentally healthy on our social media platforms and our website, especially during the month of May, which is mental health awareness month.

Remember to love yourself and one another.

Dare to LEAD,

Iida Linkka

Information retrieved from,, Johns Hopkins Medicine

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