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Break Up to Make Up


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How Hurricane Sandy Affected Women Small Business Owners

By Karin Kamp
Director of Digital Media, The Story Exchange


The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will affect businesses for weeks, if not months. And for small businesses, the backbone of New York City’s economy, a blow from a disaster like Sandy can have a huge impact. Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show that businesses of five employees or less account for 60 percent of all businesses, and companies with under 100 employees account for 98 percent of all businesses.

Has your business suffered a loss due to Sandy? Here are a some helpful resources:
The New York City Economic Development Corporation is coordinating resources for businesses that have been affected by the storm, including low interest loans.
NYC.gov has a page dedicated to Hurricane Sandy Business Recovery Information
The state of NJ is offering assistance for self-employed in affected counties.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a page dedicated to Hurricane Sandy and resources available.

We wanted to find out how small business owners are coping in the days after Sandy. So The Story Exchange asked small business owners in the metropolitan area how their businesses are faring. Here are some stories women told us.

Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R, CGP, Owner MPG Consulting

I am a psychotherapist with a clinical supervision and consulting practice in midtown Manhattan. For the past several days since Hurricane Sandy, I have not been able to travel to my office to meet with clients… Many of my clients are already in crisis (anxiety, depression, grief), so the disruption and chaos caused by Sandy is felt even more acutely. Not being able to come to my office to talk about these feeling and issues has caused profound angst and fear. I have been able to lessen the upset by finding creative solutions that allowed me to be present for them during this difficult time. I have been texting, emailing and Skyping with them when electronic power allows. These methods have helped me to maintain a connection with my clients and have lessened their feelings of isolation and vulnerability. It is still very difficult, if not impossible, to get in and out of the city. I am concerned for the patients who need to travel into NYC for psychiatric evaluations. I am also concerned for those who are taking anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications who need their prescriptions filled at local pharmacies that have been impacted by the storm. A traumatic event may bring up past trauma experiences for stable clients and sometimes cause them to become destabilized. The goal is to prevent extended isolation.

Maria Vizzi, Owner, Indoor Environmental Solutions, Inc., Bronx, NYC

The impact [on my business, dryer ventilation cleaning, air duct cleaning and sanitizing] has been felt in several ways. Our technicians have been impacted personally on various levels and some of them were unable to work and our office staff who uses public transportation were unable to come to the office. Our clients, individuals and resident and property managers of co-ops, condos and townhouse communities in the tri-state area were impacted and they couldn’t be serviced.

Another client, the New York City Fire Department and EMS, for which we clean the air ducts and dryers, were rightfully prioritizing emergency response, and all our work for them has been stalled for the moment. The difficulty in getting gas for our fleet has been a problem but we are driving as far as Connecticut to gas up our vans one by one. We are coping by being available and by accommodating everyone’s situation as best we can… Our staff has been communicating with our clients, calling and emailing to re-schedule appointments. Our concerns are being empathetic to the current situation on all fronts.

Elise Ainsworth, Owner Scotch Plains Montessori, Scotch Plains, NJ

We are a childcare provider caring for children ages 1 to 7. My business has been affected tremendously. Due to the hurricane, we currently have no power in the area and also at the school location, so we have been forced to close the school all week. We have parents that still have to go to work and are forced to find childcare elsewhere. We are not state or goverment funded so we make our money from the parents. The damages that we have suffered is consider an act of god and my insurance company will not cover for natural disasters and income lost due to the hurricane.

Barbara Bruce-Ross, Owner, B.Witching Bath Co., Ridgewood & Hawthorne NJ

We have two company-owned retail stores and sell our products over the internet and to 700 other retailers nationwide. Our corporate building was without power for a couple days, but today we were back online and all our employees reported for work. We spent the day shipping orders and making upgrades to our break room, kitchen area and corporate bathroom that includes a shower. Many of our employee family’s are without power, heat and hot water. Although we are a small business, we thought it would be beneficial to get our shower up and running to help provide our familes with a way to get cleaned up, get warm food in their belly and a provide place for children to watch videos. With a quick run to the local Home Depot, we were able to get the supplies we needed to make some quick upgrades and make everyone is a little more comfortable.

Liz Elting, Co-founder, TransPerfect, Manhattan

Headquartered in NYC, my team and I are among the companies who have spent numbers of business hours without power or access to our main headquarters. We are a language services and technology solutions company with offices all over the world, serving clients on a global basis, so we needed to ensure continuity of service even in the face of an unprecedented disaster. Fortunately, we’ve been able to accomplish this goal by providing 24-hour support to our New York headquarters by re-routing work to our west coast offices and to western Europe. On a personal level, our employees are out in the community doing what they can to help their neighbors. One longtime employee has told me she had over 25 people come to her home on the edge of the power outage grid in lower Manhattan. Her power stayed on through the storm, and she has been providing showers, cell phone charging, computer charging and meals to people who she meets in the street and some who have knocked on her door.

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Why Depressed Children May Be Prone to the Holiday Blues


If your child is depressed or is prone to depression, you may not be surprised to know that the stress of the season may actually lead to the holiday blues in your child.

Holidays and Stress

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but some children are simply more prone t0 depression as a result of life stressors. While festivities may be fun for some, a
depression-prone child may find chaos in holiday parties, crowds, or a disruption of his daily routine.

If your child has recently lost a loved one or pet, or experienced a significant life change, like a family divorce or move, the holiday season may seem especially hard to cope with.

What Parents Can Do

If your child is prone to depression, watch closely for changes in his mood, behavior, and daily functioning. If you notice that his behaviors or daily patterns have changed, contact your child’s mental health provider.

Additional symptoms of depression in children may be:

If your child has suffered a recent loss, allow him to grieve and acknowledge his feelings. Your child may take comfort in keeping old traditions alive or amending them to fit new family dynamics.

Children are also very attuned to their parents’ and caregivers’ feelings and moods. So, try not to let the stress of the season affect you negatively.

The holiday season is all about enjoying and helping one another — try not to worry about meeting unrealistic holiday ideals, and aim for what works best for your entire family

Avshalom Caspi, Karen Sugden, Terrie E. Moffitt, Alan Taylor,
Ian W. Craig, HonaLee Harrington, Joseph McClay, Jonathan Mill, Judy Martin, Anthony Braithwaite, Richie Poulton. “Influence of Life Stress on Depression: Moderation by a Polymorphism in the 5-HTT Gene.” Science July 18, 2003 301: 386-389.
Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R. Tips to Cut Down on Holiday Depression. New York Amsterdam News. Nov. 19, 2009 100(47): 26-27.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression? National Institute on Mental Health. Accessed: November 30, 2010. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/what-are-the-signs-and-symptoms-of-depression.shtml
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Get a Move On: Active Dates to Enjoy with Your Partner

Time to get physical with your guy.

Chitchat over buttered dinner rolls can be cozy, but you might want to
get out of your chairs and work up a sweat (no, not that … yet!).
“Since most dates involve a lot of sitting—and eating—getting physical
is a great and healthy change of pace,” says psychotherapist Mary Pender
Greene, a relationship expert in New York City. Active dates can help
spark laughter and new conversation even as they help you stay fit. So take advantage of the last dog days of summer and row a boat together on a nearby lake. The sheer spontaneity of it will yank you out of your comfort zone and remind you of romance pre-kids. Lace up your hiking boots and take a trek, picnic basket in hand. Enjoy the sunset while sipping chilled champagne and savoring seasonal berries. Or learn a new activity together,
like how to swing a golf club or swivel your hips in a tango class.
Beyond obvious benefits, sharing newfound physicality can also help
build your emotional bond—very sexy indeed.

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Birth Control for Men? Could it Work?

By Herina Ayot
After years of development, male contraception is closer to shelves than ever. Will brothers buy in?

Birth Control for Men:<br /> Could it Work?
Male birth control pill may soon be a reality

“If you have to choose to keep one and lose the other—gun to your head—which do you lose? Your eyes or your penis?”

My favorite pastime is a long dinner with great food, better friends, and of course a cocktail (or four.) The last time I attended one of these, a friend of mine called the waiter over for extra input, and posed that question.

All the men present opted to keep their reproductive organ at the expense of their sight.  Their reasons:  “Stevie Wonder gets his, too” and “Ray Charles was a typical ladies’ man.” These men would rather go blind, than to lose their ability to have sex. Literally.

But the question doesn’t apply to women, many of whom enjoy sex, but aren’t defined by it. It’s especially relevant now that researchers are having serious conversations about the possibility of a male birth control hitting the market as soon as 2015. The method, while reversible, could reduce a man’s sperm count to zero, cutting off any immediate possibility of reproduction.

With the introduction of the birth control pill in the early 1960s, women were finally able enjoy the freedom to have sex without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. But men may not be so inclined to take such a medication. Psychotherapist and relationship expert, Mary Pender Greene says, “Men in general are very committed to the idea that being able to reproduce has a lot to do with how successful they are as men. Regardless of culture, men have historically been looked to for producing offspring. It’s a big deal.”

My male friends have a hard time with the idea of parting with their sexual organ because for them, it is a big part of their identity.  Is it possible that there may be a great deal of resistance in the African American community to the male birth control concept because so much of a man’s ego is tied up in his sexuality and his ability to reproduce? A man who is up there in age, with children to brag about, is still often reluctant to get a vasectomy, a contrast to a woman’s willingness to take short and long term birth control, get her
tubes tied, or have other surgeries to prevent a pregnancy she doesn’t want, despite numerous side effects.

Back at the dinner table, opinions vary on the issue of male contraception and vasectomies:

“Divorce rate is high. People remarry. The new woman might want to have a child. You want to keep your options open.”

“If I was done having kids, I would consider it. In a way, it would be liberating not to have to worry about knocking someone up. I would never ask a woman to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. Birth control for women has crazy side effects sometimes. And tubal ligation is stupid and risky. It’s just too much unnecessary surgery for my wife. Some dudes are so ignorant like its only about them, or that it makes them less of a man because they can’t drop babies at will.”

“We are so comfortable with the responsibility being on the woman,” said Chris Kazi Rolle, activist and life coach. “‘Why do I need to take a pill? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’
With the history of medicine in this country, there is this fear that [scientists] have to do years of research and I have to wait to see how many people get sick first before I take something that is new on this market. I think many men would agree. ‘What if my sperm doesn’t come back?’”

Society regards the man as the head of the traditional household and it is most often his name that is kept going in a family. Pender Greene comments, “For a man, so much of his manhood is based on how successful he is in conquering. A man having multiple children, whether married or not, is more accepted. For a woman, this is not so. It has less to do with race and ethnicity than it does economic status.” She harks on the idea that the more money somebody has, the more they can compete economically and compensate for
not being able to have children. When they have less money, they tend to show that they are a success by having more children.

Historically, African American men have been on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder, so while the issue may not be directly related to race, it is indirectly. “I see people struggle with this all the time. When the male in the relationship is not able to reproduce, it impacts his sense of self differently than it would for a woman.  A woman is more likely to be willing to adopt if it’s a matter of wanting children. For a man, it’s more about how they feel about themselves and what the world is going to think of them,” says Pender Greene.

Therefore, making a decision to take birth control would be much harder for men who don’t have a lot of money and are worried about risking not having children. In contrast, though research is lacking, Pender Greene suspects that the more educated and aware a person is, the more likely they are to be open to birth control, in terms of taking a non traditional approach. “There are many younger [educated] men who tend to have strong feelings about wanting more control over when they become fathers. I’ve worked with men who thought that their partner was on birth control when they were not, and finding
out the truth about it later had been very devastating,” says Pender Greene. “Using birth control themselves allows men to take control in that way…This approach gives them the ability to plan for parenthood and protect their career trajectory.”

Previously, it has been more of a challenge to stop a man from generating millions of sperm in contrast to a woman’s single egg a month, but the new procedure, in clinical trials, is thought to be 100 percent effective. Like the Depo-Provera shot for women, it requires men to receive an injection in the Vas deferens with a gel and works by breaking apart sperm.

Dr. Christina Wang, a professor at the UCLA Medical Center reminds us that market research on over 9000 men from 9 countries including the US indicated that about 50% of men would be willing to use male contraception. But would the reception be the same amongst African American men? We’ll find out soon enough…

Read more on this topic here and continue the conversation with writer, Herina Ayot. She tweets @ReeExperience.

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Looking at Change as Growth

Submitted by Beth Braccio Hering

Looking at Change as Growth

Many of us have things in our lives that we hope to change. Perhaps we’d like to pursue a higher-paying job, develop a better work-life balance, or go back to school. Maybe we feel personal improvements are in order, such as losing weight or becoming more confident.

Knowing what steps to take to accomplish a goal is part of the road to success. Oftentimes, however, it is not a lack of information that is holding us back – it is our own resistance to change. While Nike may tout “Just do it,” that is easier said than done.

“Change can be difficult, even when it’s for our own good,” says Mary Pender Greene, a career/executive coach and psychotherapist. “We don’t like to leave the comfortable and familiar in favor of the unknown. Change brings uncertainty, and with this uncertainty comes fear and stress.”

Recognizing that uneasy feelings are common when dealing with changes can aid in accepting them. (Remember your mom telling you on your first day of high school that all your classmates had pits in their stomachs, too?) Go ahead and admit your fear as well as acknowledge that it is uncomfortable to disturb the status quo.

Then, realize that another name for change is growth, and think about progressing to where you want to be. “For change to happen, we have to first discover how the change will benefit us,” Pender Greene says. “We must believe that the change is for the better. Understanding the benefits can motivate us by shifting our mindset.”

Need a little boost in positive thinking? Consider this quote from Steve Jobs, “Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Image courtesy of Thinkstock/Photodisc.

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The Elephant Is Not Pink: Talking About White, Black, and Brown to Achieve Excellence in Clinical Practice


Incorporating issues of race and racism can improve clinical engagement and the therapeutic alliance. Assessing, understanding, and responding to experiences related to racial identity and racism related stress can be an important factor in a clinician’s ability to be culturally responsive. A vignette of client treatment presents common dilemmas in clinical treatment. Responses to questions about race from focus groups are presented to frame the experiences of women of color who struggle with poverty and social-emotional issues. A framework of multicultural antiracist practice highlights the skills necessary for clinicians, supervisors, and managers.

Read full article.

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The Good Break Up

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Social Workers Help Improve Relationships

Hosted by Dr. Melanie Barton

March is Social Work month.  Occupations vary widely amongst the men and women who have earned their Masters in Social Work degree.  Being a therapist and a researcher are just two facets of what they can do.  Dr. LeslieBeth Wish will share her research about women and their relationships.  Mary Pender Greene will describe the techniques she uses working with couples. The show content will amaze and surprise you.

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Are You Guilty of Stigmatizing the Mentally Ill?

With a subtle look or action, you may be helping to promote negative attitudes toward people with mental illness — without realizing it or meaning to do it. Here’s how to check any bias at the door.

Medically reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD

Despite the fact that mental disorders are relatively common in the United States (according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 46 percent of Americans will experience a diagnosable mental disorder throughout their lifetime), stigma of mental illness remains an ongoing problem.

Only a few decades ago, many people with severe depression and other mental disorders were shunned, placed in straitjackets, and locked away in institutions. And while society has come a long way since then, we still have improvements to make in terms of getting people the help they need while treating them with dignity and respect.

“Stigma related to mental illness is a national health problem,” says Melissa Pinto, PhD, RN, an instructor in the School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University who studies stigma related to mental health. “Young people hear messages about mental health disorders from an early age — as a result, many of them are scared to be around people with mental illness.”

One serious effect of the stigma around mental disorders is that two-thirds of affected people don’t seek help, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness; the main reasons people give to explain why include fear of disclosure, rejection, and discrimination.“Stigma reinforces attitudes and behaviors that prevent many people with symptoms of mental illness from seeking the treatment they need,” Pinto says.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, in its most severe form mental health stigma can lead people to avoid socializing and working with — including renting to and hiring — people with mental disorders, especially severe disorders such as schizophrenia.

You may think you have no preconceived notions about people with depression or other forms of mental illness, yet you may unwittingly be guilty of perpetuating mental health stigmas. Expressions of mental health stigma are often displayed during daily interactions in fairly subtle and complex ways, Pinto says.

Subtle Signs of Stigma Against the Mentally Ill

The following examples of mental health stigma may help you reach an “aha” moment with regard to your own actions and attitudes:

Mental illness in the media. “On television, characters with a mental health disorder often play the villain,” Pinto says. “In order to eliminate mental illness stigma, these media portrayals need to become more accurate.” One step forward is the encouraging depictions of psychiatry on shows such as Monk,The Sopranos, and In Treatment, says Howard Belkin, MD, JD, an assistant professor at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at the Birmingham Counseling Center in Royal Oak, Mich.

Phrases like “She’s lost her marbles” or “He’s not playing with a full deck.” It’s easy to throw terms such as these around in casual conversation, but doing so promotes mental health stigma. “Instead, use care in the way you describe someone with a mental health disorder,” Dr. Belkin says. “Remember: The mental illness is not the person’s fault, and she may be doing everything she can to try to get better.”

“Crazy” Halloween costumes. Considering going next Halloween as a psycho killer or straitjacketed mental ward patient? Both costumes strongly promote mental health stigma and falsely portray all people with mental illness as violent. “Unfortunately, some people with mental illness, particularly paranoia, can have a tendency toward violence, and when they become violent it can be tragic, as well as heavily covered by the media,” says David M. Reiss, MD, interim medical director at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, Mass. “However, what the media does not remind the public is that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. Overall, statistically, a person with mental illness is no more likely to become violent than a person without mental illness.”

Common — but wrong — assumptions about people with mental illness. “For example, people may assume someone with depression or another mental illness is unstable, lazy, untrustworthy, unintelligent, or incapable,” when that’s not the case, says Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R, a group psychotherapist in private practice in New York City.

Verbal innuendoes. As you talk about someone with a mental illness, you may pair certain words with a change in your tone of voice. For example, you may whisper the term “depression” or “bipolar.” “People pick up on these cues, which communicate depression stigma to the listener,” Pinto says.

Isolation of people with mental illness. When talking to someone with depression or another mental health problem, you may unconsciously step back to increase your physical distance from the person, or turn away from him or her. “You may also speak to the person with mental illness in an angry or condescending tone or as if he was a child,” Pender Greene says. People with mental health disorders are also more often ignored in group social situations and generally more rejected by others.

Disrespect for the gravity of depression and other mental health problems. Telling someone with mental illness to “get over it” or “snap out of it” is not only insensitive, it also promotes mental health stigma, Pender Greene says. Instead, she suggests pushing past the misconceptions floating around by educating yourself with the facts.

Overall, the best way to avoid promoting mental health stigmas is to give people with depression and other forms of mental illness the respect and kindness they deserve.“Good mental health is a goal we should all seek,” Belkin says. “We need to show understanding and compassion for those suffering from both minor and major mental health problems. If the topic of depression or other mental illness comes up in conversation, be empathetic. After all, you or one of your loved ones may one day suffer from mental health symptoms.”

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