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September 25, 2011

Bullying claims another child's life

This is a terribly difficult issue for parents and communities to grapple with, and of particular concern to teachers and schools, who are on the front line. Last year, New York adopted a Dignity for All Students Act (PDF) but it does not go into effect until July 2012. The law forbids harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex. But at present, there are no laws on the books. Local authorities are looking at possible charges that could be brought against the bullies. Police said three students in particular might have been involved. The Amherst Police Department's Special Victims Unit is evaluating the potential charges of harassment, cyber-harassment or hate crimes.

It's all too easy to throw this problem in the laps of parents, teachers, or a particular community or school. But if the incivility of our public discourse and publiic culture is any measure, bullying has deeper and more insidious roots.

Here are some resources for your employees who might be grappling withchildhood bullying issues.

Bullying Resoutces for Parents and Teachers

What parents need to know about teen suicide

Creating a Climate of Respect

September 23, 2011

An HR Time Capsule


The 1943 Disney Handbook is a fascinating workplace time capsule from an era when women were apparently delicate creatures who were allocated twice as much sick time as the guys. But on the other hand, the guys had exclusive access to the Penthouse Club - "Men only! Sorry gals..."

It's a fascinating glimpse into a workplace of yesteryear. It's interesting to see how times change. Wartime is also a permeating theme in the document, from car pools to help ameliorate gas and tire rationing, to violation of the US Espionage Act as grounds for dismissal.

Hat tip to Ohio Employer's Law Blog for pointing us to this fun artifact.

September 18, 2011

Tools for Tough Times

The economy is tough for you and your employees - and what with back to school, looming energy bills and the pre-holiday season, it's a particularly costly time of year. One of the benefits that we offer our members is a "Tools for Tough Times" Resource Center, which we update periodically. Here's a sampling of some new budget-booster tools that we've discovered.

RxAssist - Patient assistance programs are run by pharmaceutical companies to provide free medications to people who cannot afford to buy their medicine. RxAssist offers a comprehensive database of these patient assistance programs, as well as practical tools, news, and articles so that health care professionals and patients can find the information they need. All in one place.

Transportation to Work Toolkit for the Business Community - This toolkit offers businesses the tools and information they need to develop and implement a cost-effective transportation program for their employees. These programs have many benefits for employees and employer alike. The Toolkit offers information on topics such as tax incentives, ridesharing and vanpools, green transportation, strategies for businesses in both rural and urban communities, and accessible transportation for employees with disabilities, along with success stories. It was created with funding from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, through a cooperative agreement between the Community Transportation Association of America and the Federal Transit Administration.

U.S. Transit System Links - links to regional bus, rail, ferry, trolley, and other public transportation systems.

Bike Maps - free road and mountain bike routes throughout the US and Canada to thousands of cyclists.

Money Matters - a resource provided by the Federal Trade Commission to help consumers tackle some money issues head-on. Topics include: Scam Watch, Credit Cards, Managing Your Money, Dealing with Debt, Your Home, and Jobs. This site is also available in Spanish.

MyMoney.gov - a resource brought to you by 20 agencies and bureaus of the U.S. Federal government that work on improving financial literacy and education. Here's just a few of the available tools:
Budgeting Worksheets; Calculators; Checklists; and Life Events

The Tax Incentives Assistance Project (TIAP):
2011 Residential Energy Efficiency Incentives (PDF) - Homeowners can qualify for a variety of federal tax credits by making home envelope improvements and heating and cooling upgrades, and by installing onsite renewable generation. All incentives are in effect for measures placed in service during 2011 unless noted otherwise.

Commercial Energy Efficiency Incentives (PDF) - Business owners are eligible for a variety of federal tax incentives for improving building energy efficiency, implementing combined heat and power (CHP) systems, purchasing hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, and installing onsite renewable generation, fuel cells, and microturbines.

Student Loan Calculator - How much will you pay? Use this tool to determine how quickly you'll pay off your student loans. By making a higher monthly payment, you can shorten the length of your loan and dramatically reduce the interest you will pay.

The Freecycle Network is made up of 4,981 groups with 8,728,447 members around the world. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers. Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on 'Browse Groups' above the search box.

True Cost to Own Calculator - This calculator from Edmunds reveals the hidden costs -- all the costs -- associated with buying, owning and operating a car over a five-year-period. These extra costs include: depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs. Search to view the TCO of any vehicle.

47 Cheap, Fun Things to Do This Weekend - proving that many of the best things in life are indeed free.

September 11, 2011

Dealing with difficult anniversaries

The 10-year anniversary of September 11 is a manifestation of the collective impulse to deal with ongoing grief and loss after a highly traumatic and public event. Anniversaries of this and other traumatic events can elicit powerful and strong emotions on the part of survivors - both those who lived through event itself and those who suffered the loss of loved ones during events.

For many, public memorials and acknowledgments are therapeutic. They are a way to express and share grief in a communal way. They are intended to memorialize those who died and to offer support and comfort to those who survived.

But for some people, these collective outpourings can have unintended consequences. While the national mantra "never forget" may be intended to respect and memorialize the victims, it can also send an unintended message to survivors by trapping them in their grief. A goal of mourning should be for survivors deal with their loss and eventually move on with living productive lives. It is normal for survivors to come to grips with their loss and, at some point, to detach from the deceased without feeling disloyal or feeling that they are "forgetting" the decedent. It can be extremely difficult for survivors of very public tragedies to move on because they become inadvertent symbols of the event during anniversaries, whether they want to be or not. While offering support is important, we must allow people to mourn and memorialize in the way that works best for them.

The National Center for PTSD offers perspective on anniversary reactions:

"A common type of anniversary reaction is feeling grief and sadness on the anniversary of the death of someone close to you. In fact, this is so common that most major religions have special services to support those who feel increased grief at these times. If the reaction is extreme, the survivor may become depressed or even think about suicide. For most people, though, the feelings of sadness at the anniversary do not last more than a brief time.

What becomes clear is that there is not one classic anniversary reaction. The anniversary reaction will differ among trauma survivors. It may depend on the type of trauma, how much time has passed since the trauma or loss, the attributes of that person, or other factors."

While it's normal for people to feel deep sadness around the time of an anniversary and to have events trigger intense feelings of grief and loss, we should be alert for those who experience particularly intense, difficult, long-lasting or significantly disruptive grief reactions. When grief continues to disrupt activities of daily life long after an event has occurred, a person may be experiencing something that is commonly referred to as complicated grief or unresolved grief. This is related to major depression and the person who experiences this long-lasting, unresolved grief should seek professional assistance.

Potential symptoms of complicated grief include:

  • Nightmares, flashbacks, sleep disruption
  • Feelings of hopelessness, despair, meaninglessness, loss of interest in life
  • Intense feelings of guilt, blame or worthlessness
  • Physical distress - headaches stomach distress, nausea
  • Extreme anger or bitterness
  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Ongoing disinterest in and inability to perform normal daily activities
  • Isolation, breaking social ties
    Thoughts of suicide
  • Escape behaviors such as increased use of alcohol or drugs

If you observe someone getting "stuck" in their grief, or if you observe someone who experiences significant life disruption due to prolonged sadness or preoccupation with the events, the best thing you can do is to help them to get professional assistance.

Coping With Grief and Loss

9/11 and lingering PTSD

Complicated grief - Prolonged Grief Disorder

Complicated Grief - the Mayo Clinic

The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress

Guidelines for Coping With the Anniversary of a Trauma or Death - Advice for parents, and special considerations for teachers and other school personnel in helping children with anniversaries

September 8, 2011

Man in the Red Bandana

How would you spend the last hour of your life? Man in the Red Bandana is an excellent clip from ESPN commemorating the events of 9/11 by telling the inspiring story of a young man who led people to safety from one of the World Trade Center buildings 10 years ago. He was a former Boston College lacrosse player whose trademark was a red bandana.

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