Workers worry about safety, stress as states ease mask rules

Workers worry about safety, stress as states ease mask rules

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Leo Carney worries that bigger crowds and mask-less diners could endanger workers at the Biloxi, Mississippi, seafood restaurant where he manages the kitchen. Maribel Cornejo, who earns $9.85 an hour as a McDonald’s cook in Houston, can’t afford to get sick and frets co-workers will become more lax about wearing masks, even though the fast food company requires them.

As more jurisdictions join Texas, Mississippi and other states in lifting mask mandates and easing restrictions on businesses, many essential workers — including bartenders, restaurant servers and retail workers — are relieved by changes that might help the economy but also concerned they could make them less safe amid a pandemic that health experts warn is far from over.

Many business owners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were glad Gov. Tate Reeves decided to eliminate mask requirements, limits on seating in restaurants and most other binding restrictions. “But the workers themselves… especially ones that have pre-existing conditions, they’re scared right now,” Carney said.

“This just puts us back in a situation where we’re on the frontlines, under the gun again,” said Carney, who sees Black Mississippians facing the greatest risks from the decision that took effect Wednesday. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Latino people in the United States, and many Gulf Coast restaurants have a significant number of Black employees.

Public health experts tracking the trajectory of more contagious virus variants have warned that lifting restrictions too soon could lead to another lethal wave of infections. Although vaccination drives are accelerating as drug manufacturers ramp up production, many essential workers are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Mississippi and other states.

Alabama’s state health officer on Friday advised residents to keep following standard infection-prevention recommendations even though the governor is letting the state’s mask mandate expire next month.

“There is nothing magical about the date of April 9. We don’t want the public to think that’s the day we all stop taking precautions,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said.

The governors of Iowa, Montana, North Dakota also have ended mask requirements or plan to suspend them soon. The governor of South Carolina on Friday lifted an executive order requiring face coverings in government office buildings and restaurants, leaving it up to state administrators and restaurant operators to develop their own guidelines.

Governors in several other states, including Michigan and Louisiana, eased the operating limits for bars, restaurants and other businesses in recent days.

The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade association in the U.S., issued a statement Wednesday encouraging shoppers to wear masks. Some retail chains, including Target and supermarket operator Albertson’s, plan to continue requiring them for both customers and workers in states that no longer make them mandatory.

Texas Retailers Association President and CEO George Kelemen said he thinks many members will continue to require workers — but not necessarily customers — to wear masks and other protective gear.

“Retailers know their customers best,” he said.

McDonald’s cook Cornejo, 43, said the end of Texas’ mask mandate next week alarms her because several of her co-workers already were lax about keeping their faces covered. She said co-workers she has asked to pull their masks back over their noses politely acquiesced, but not always for long.

“There are just different attitudes,” said Cornejo, whose 19-year-old son began working as a cashier at the same restaurant to help pay the family’s bills. “Some say it’s just too difficult to keep it on for eight hours, especially when it gets hot.”

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, encouraged Americans to “do the right thing” by continuing to abide by recommendations for routine mask use and social distancing – even if their states lift restrictions.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, said individuals who wear masks still risk infection from unmasked shoppers and diners. He called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions starting March 10 “entirely too soon and entirely too carefree.”

While deaths and new confirmed cases have plummeted from their January peaks nationwide, they’re still running at high levels, while outbreak indicators in some states have risen in recent weeks. In Mississippi, for example, the 7-day rolling average of the virus positivity rate rose from 11.47% on Feb. 19 to 12.14% on March 5, and the state’s 7-day rolling average of daily deaths increase during the same period from 15 per day to 20.71 per day.

Workers in cities that still have mask mandates or jobs at businesses that maintain their own virus-prevention rules anticipate defiance from customers emboldened by their governors’ actions and weary of taking precautions.

Molly Brooks, 25, a barista at a Farmers Branch, Texas, coffee shop, said she has regularly dealt with customers who walked out or bullied her and her colleagues when they were asked to wear a mask. Brooks worries how they’re going to enforce the rule , which the coffee shop plans to keep in place, now that Texas’ governor lifted the statewide mask mandate.

“We are gearing up for the emotional toll that this is going to take,” said the 25-year-old barista, who started working for the coffee shop in November while looking for a job in education. “The people who don’t want to wear them are still going to fight…and now they are going to have even more ammunition.”

Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi, will require masks and allow only eight customers at a time. Although General Manager Lyn Roberts believes the rules will make many customers feel safe, bookstore employee Paul Fyke said he observed a change in Oxford almost as soon as the Board of Aldermen chose to follow the governor’s lead and did away with the college town’s mask mandate.

“I mean, really, even on the drive home, you can kind of already see there were places where, for a lot of people, it was triumph,” he said on Thursday, the day after Oxford’s mask requirement ended. “They were happy to be removing them.”

Still, some workers are cautiously hopeful that fewer restrictions will bring more customers, tips and job security after a year short on all three.

In San Francisco, where the mayor last week announced the return of indoor dining and the reopening of movie theaters and gyms, Dino Keres had no qualms about serving drinks to customers bellying up to the bar inside Sam’s Grill.

That’s partly because he was about to get his second vaccine dose, but also because nobody on staff was infected when indoor dining was briefly permitted last fall. What’s more, masks are required unless people are eating, and indoor seating is limited to 25% of capacity.

“We have already went through this once, and now the timing feels about right to try it again,” Keres said Thursday.

Ro Hart, an assistant general manager and hostess at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, said the return of indoor dining in the city provoked a mixture of joy and anxiety.

“We are happy to be bringing in more revenue, but we are little nervous, too, because we have to be more stringent about making sure everyone keeps their masks on when they’re not eating,” Hart said, adding that she would be far more worried if San Francisco didn’t require masks.

“We feel for our brothers and sisters at all those restaurants in Texas,” she said.

Associated Press writers Alexandra Olson and Joseph Pisani in New York; David Koenig in Dallas; Dee-Ann Durbin in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed to this story.

This content was originally published here.

Why You Can’t Shake Pandemic Anxiety | Cognoscenti

Why You Can't Shake Pandemic Anxiety | Cognoscenti

Trauma leaves an indelible mark on the nervous system. When faced with an existential threat, our brains shift into overdrive, activating systems designed to keep us safe. Even after the threat recedes, our nervous systems remain on high alert. Our brains will stubbornly stick to the routines we’ve adopted over the last year because they have been so critical for our survival. For the foreseeable future, we will instinctively reach for our facemasks, startle when someone coughs and stand further apart. With repeated reassurance that the threat is really gone, these habits will slowly fade. But the nervous system will need more time to calm down than it did to initially escalate.

Complicating matters, the end of the pandemic will not be clearly defined. The virus will recede but there won’t be a proclaimed day of victory. Once we go through a trauma, our nervous systems rapidly re-escalate in situations that remind us of the traumatic one — we’ve all heard stories of former soldiers who still duck at the sound of a backfiring car. We will worry more than usual when we get our first post-pandemic cold. We’ll probably feel jittery the first few times we have dinner at a friend’s house. Some pre-pandemic behaviors may never feel truly safe again.

Transitions are often awkward and messy. In the space between one state and the next, there is usually ambiguity, uncertainty and disorientation. This is where we are now. A lot is still unclear; scheduling beyond the next few weeks may still be guesswork. We know that our post-pandemic life will resemble our pre-pandemic life, but also that there will be stark differences. There won’t be a “back to normal,” but rather a “new normal.” Some changes may be exciting and welcome, while others may bring new anxieties. In my own family, we are grateful that telework options will mean fewer business trips and more barefoot workdays, but dread the return of hectic early-morning routines and shuttling kids between extracurricular activities. It will take mental energy to adjust to new routines and to decide what things to carry forward and what things to leave behind.

Change is also rarely linear. As the grip of pandemic anxiety starts to ease, thoughts and feelings you’ve been able to defer for a year — by shoving them into the closets of your mind — may re-emerge, demanding to be addressed. You might be surprised when worry, grief and despair appear, just as things seem to be getting better.

In my practice, I’m already hearing from parents whose relief about their children returning to in-person school quickly turned to concerns about delayed academic skills. Reunions with loved ones may be shadowed by the mutual recognition of unrecoverable time. As we realize the full extent of what has been lost and grasp the challenges ahead, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.

At this point, you might be wondering: How can I fast-forward through my psychological recovery? Do I have the strength or patience to process difficult emotions when this has gone on for so long, and I have experienced so much loss? Having these thoughts and emotions can actually be a sign that recovery is already underway. And a few cognitive and social factors will make this process easier.

This content was originally published here.

Ghislaine Maxwell losing her hair from stress, brother says

Ghislaine Maxwell losing her hair from stress, brother says

Accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell is enduring “grotesque” conditions while behind bars in Brooklyn that “amounts to torture,” her brother complained Wednesday.

“No human being should have to go through what she’s been put through,” Ian Maxwell, 64, told the BBC in his first broadcast interview in more than 30 years.

“It is really degrading … this is not the way that a democratic country should be running its prison system,” he said of conditions in the Metropolitan Detention Center.

“It’s grotesque and in that respect it amounts to torture,” he insisted.

Lawyers for Ghislaine have repeatedly claimed that the British socialite is being abused by jail guards, while being fed inedible food and brown water — which has caused so much stress, she’s lost her hair.

“I am worried about Ghislaine’s capacity to endure much more of this treatment,” he said of his 59-year-old sister, who is facing serious sex charges connected to late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Ian stressed that Ghislaine is “presumed innocent,” blaming “fantastic press reporting that is way out of what is correct about her as a human being and about the case generally.”

He also attacked prosecutors for revealing so little about the case against his sister, including the identities of the three accusers she is alleged to have abused, as well as the time and dates of the alleged offenses.

“Justice cuts both ways. There is justice for victims of abuse, but there is also justice for those who are accused of that,” he complained.

Despite this, his sister “has been in prison now for nearly 250 days, and counting.”

“She is in effective isolation in a cell that measures 6 feet by 9 feet and which includes a concrete bed and a toilet. There is no natural light. She is under 24-hour, round-the-clock surveillance with 10 cameras including one that moves and tracks her movements. That is her existence. Every day,” he said.

“The water that is provided through the prison is brown, and the food that she’s given is very highly microwaved and basically inedible,” he said.

Ghislaine Maxwell's brother, Ian Maxwell, has called her conditions in prison 'grotesque' and 'degrading'
Ghislaine Maxwell’s brother, Ian Maxwell, has called her conditions in prison “grotesque” and “degrading.”
Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

“She’s a 59-year-old woman and we understand that she’s losing her hair, and she’s also having trouble with her eyesight and her ability to concentrate because this is a tremendous pressure to be under.”

Still, he insisted the media heiress “is resolute,” saying, “She’s strong in her spirit and undaunted, but obviously this is very, very wearing physically.”

He insisted her conditions are a “grotesque overreaction” to the fallout from Epstein killing himself while he was held before his own trial on serious child-sex charges.

“Ghislaine is not a suicide risk. She has never been a suicide risk,” he claimed. “She is being completely overmanaged.” 

He also said there was no reason for his sister to be incarcerated at all because she “isn’t somebody who’s seeking to flee.”

“She’s not in the business of running away from anybody,” he said, also stressing that her finances are controlled so that she “can’t just take some large amount of money and disappear.”

In December, a judge refused to release Ghislaine on $28.5 million bail, saying she poses a flight risk.

Ian claimed he only saw his sister with Epstein once, and that they had drifted apart by the late 1990s.

“I wish she’d never met the man, obviously it goes without saying,” he told the BBC.

Gloria Allred, an attorney representing Ghislaine and Epstein accusers, insisted that bail “should be out of the question” because it would be “very upsetting to the victims.”

“A cell is not a palace, a cell is not a wealthy estate with all the amenities in it,” she told the BBC.

“I know Miss Maxwell is probably suffering in jail,” she conceded, while stressing that “the charges against her are very serious” and “she needs to stay where she is, in custody.”

Maxwell has denied any involvement in grooming minors for her late pal Epstein, who committed suicide in a Lower Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex charges.

This content was originally published here.

Too Much High-Intensity Exercise May Be Bad for Your Health – The New York Times

Too Much High-Intensity Exercise May Be Bad for Your Health - The New York Times

During week two, the riders added a third HIIT session and ramped up the length of some of their intervals to a draining eight minutes. In week three, they worked out five times, with a mix of four-minute and eight-minute spurts of all-out pedaling. Finally, in week four, for recovery, they effectively halved the amount and intensity of their exercise. Each week, the researchers repeated all testing.

Then they compared how people’s bodies had changed week over week.

At first, the findings were encouraging. By the end of week two, the riders were pedaling harder and appeared to be getting fitter, with better daily blood-sugar control and more total mitochondria in their muscle cells. Each of these mitochondria was also more efficient now, producing greater amounts of energy than at the start.

But something began to go wrong during week three. The volunteers’ ability to generate power while cycling flattened, and their subsequent muscle biopsies showed sputtering mitochondria, each of which was now producing only about 60 percent as much energy as during the previous week. The riders’ blood-sugar control also slipped, with seesawing spikes and dips throughout the day.

After a week of lower-intensity riding, their mitochondria started to bounce back, producing more energy, but still 25 percent less than during week two. Their blood-sugar levels also stabilized, but again, not to the same extent as before. The riders could pedal, however, with the same — or even greater — vigor as in week two.

Taken as a whole, the monthlong experiment suggests that “HIIT exercise should not be excessive if increased health is a desired outcome,” says Mikael Flockhart, a doctoral student at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, who conducted the study with his adviser, Filip Larsen, and others.

The study was not focused on athletic performance, but even for serious athletes, he says, piling on multiple, intense, interval workouts each week, with little rest between them, is likely to lead to a tipping point, after which performance, as well as indicators of metabolic health, slip.

The researchers are not sure precisely what changes within their volunteers’ bodies and muscles precipitated the negative results in week three. They tested multiple potential molecular causes, Mr. Flockhart says, but did not isolate an obvious, single instigator. He and his colleagues suspect that a cascade of biochemical changes within people’s muscles during the hardest week of exercise overwhelmed the mitochondria then, and the weakened mitochondria contributed to the disruptions in people’s blood-sugar control.

This content was originally published here.

New Strategies for Calming Your Pandemic Anxiety – WSJ

New Strategies for Calming Your Pandemic Anxiety - WSJ

Is anxiety a habit that we can break?

A leading anxiety researcher argues that habits can fuel our worry, and suggests two surprising strategies to combat it: Curiosity and kindness.

Judson Brewer, who is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, is the author of the new book “Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind.” He is the director of research and innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center and an associate professor in the university’s medical school and school of public health. He specializes in helping people cope with addiction and create better habits.

I spoke with Dr. Brewer about how we often get stuck in a “habit loop” of anxiety and what we can do about it. Here are edited excerpts of that interview.

Anxiety levels have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Why can’t we calm down?

This content was originally published here.

Herbal Basics: Bitters 101 – Traditional Medicinals

Herbal Basics: Bitters 101 - Traditional Medicinals

Bitters Herbs & Their Digestive Benefits

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Often overlooked or dismissed as a weed, dandelion is one of the greatest medicinal plants in Traditional European herbalism. It is one of the most commonly used herbs for gently stimulating the liver, supporting the kidneys and promoting healthy digestion.* Dandelion’s role as a bitter herb and a diuretic make it a fantastic herb for general health, daily detox, and well-being. All parts of this plant are medicinal and edible.

Enjoy the root as a tea, in tincture form, or you can add the fresh root to soups or broths. Harvest the young spring leaves in unsprayed or uncontaminated areas and add to soups, juices, and salads. The yellow “petals” can be plucked from the head of the dandelion and sprinkled over salads, battered and turned into fritters, or brewed into an old-time recipe of dandelion wine. As an herbal supplement, our organic Dandelion Leaf and Root tea is a daily habit for us and a faithful ally for everyday wellness.*

Burdock (Arctium lappa) 

Burdock root is highly regarded as a unique digestive tonic and supporter of healthy liver function. As a bitter, it is mild, yet effective. As a fresh herb, burdock root has a rich nutritional profile and is very nourishing and food-like. Herbalists have long used it to support healthy skin and to nourish the microbiome. This root has long been praised for its alterative action, which supports channels of elimination in the body and supports healthy digestion. Rich with inulin and prebiotic starches, burdock root is used to help support healthy kidneys and beautiful, glowing skin.* Fresh burdock root makes a great addition to stir-fries and soups. It’s also delicious pickled.

For its liver-supportive functions, you can find it in our organic EveryDay Detox® Lemon tea and in all of Urban Moonshine’s digestive bitters.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), schisandra is known as wǔ wèi zi, or the “five flavor fruit,” as it contains all five tastes — bitter, pungent, salty, sour, and sweet. Because of its unique complexity in flavor, schisandra pairs well with almost anything, making it a truly versatile herb. We love using this herb because of its gentle liver support and gentle detoxifying qualities.*

This herb is one of the real superheroes in our organic EveryDay Detox® Schisandra Berry tea.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) 

This common flower isn’t just a sleep aid but also a calming herb that eases digestion and occasional nausea, and relaxes twitchy tummies.* Soothing and calming, chamomile is a fantastic and gentle bitter, especially when steeped as a tea for longer than 5 minutes or in tincture form.

Enjoying a cup of Chamomile tea after a big meal is a time-honored tradition by herbalists.

This content was originally published here.

Criminal Justice Reform Means Reforming the Mental Health System | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness


By Shannon Scully

By Shannon Scully

Events of last year have renewed our country’s awareness of the shortcomings in our criminal justice system. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only shown the cracks in our health care system, it has highlighted existing disparities for people of color and those who are incarcerated.

NAMI has long engaged in the conversation around how to keep people with mental illness out of our nation’s criminal justice system. With this new energy in the public discourse, we are prepared to help mold an innovative model of safety for our communities. In order to reform the criminal justice system, we must reform our nation’s mental health system.

The link between the lack of investment in our nation’s mental health system and the over-reliance on the criminal justice system is undeniable. In the mid-1800s, Dorothea Dix first advocated for the creation of a system of care for people with mental illness after she witnessed deplorable conditions in a Massachusetts jail.

Starting in the 1950s, many of the hospitals championed by Dix began to close, and people with mental illness returned to their communities in a trend known as “deinstitutionalization.” Unfortunately, the promise of a community mental health system did not materialize, and communities again began to rely on jails and prisons to deal with mental illness.

Today, an estimated 44% of people incarcerated in jail and 37% of people incarcerated in prison have a mental health condition. We continue to use the criminal justice system to address mental illness not because people with mental illness are more likely to commit a crime, but because we fail to offer an alternative. So, what should reform look like?


Investing in Crisis Response Systems

To begin, we need to change our expectations of the response to people experiencing a mental health crisis. For many communities, law enforcement is the primary first responder.

A law enforcement response often results in people with mental illness being booked into jail instead of receiving the mental health care they need. Law enforcement’s role in responding to mental health crises has developed over the years for two main reasons:

Law enforcement’s role must be reduced in mental health crises. We can do this by investing in robust crisis-response systems, with the goal of connecting individuals to appropriate care and long-term recovery. Robust crisis-response systems include services such as 24/7 crisis hotlines, crisis respite centers, mobile outreach and mobile crisis units.

NAMI’s publication “Divert to What? Community Services That Enhance Diversion” outlines our vision for what a mental health system should look like. It prioritizes care coordination and services that work toward not only diverting people from justice system involvement, but also supporting them to have fulfilling lives in their communities.


Creating Accessible Mental Health Care

In conversations with front-line criminal justice professionals, people often ask, “Why don’t they just get help?” This is usually in reference to individuals who cycle in and out of the criminal justice system due to symptoms of mental illness. For those who are less familiar with the failures of our mental health care system, it can be difficult to understand the number of barriers to care people with mental illness face.

Cost and mental health coverage are two of the most significant barriers. In 2018, over half of people with serious mental illness who felt they had an unmet need for mental health services didn’t access those services because they could not afford the cost.

However, studies show a link between insurance coverage and positive outcomes for those with justice system involvement. In Michigan, a pilot program that linked formerly incarcerated people with care in the community saw a significant drop in recidivism rates. In Florida and Washington, studies showed increased access to mental health care for people with severe mental illness who were enrolled in Medicaid upon their release.

Changing federal policies, such as allowing Medicaid to provide coverage to people who are incarcerated, can support people with mental illness from becoming disconnected from their care while incarcerated. It can also provide access to services once they are released that prevent them from becoming re-incarcerated.

Having the resources to access mental health care is just one part of supporting diversions for people with mental illness. Communities need to build an array of services and supports that provide a holistic response to mental health and can meet the needs of people who are at risk of justice system involvement.

In addition to outlining our vision for crisis care, “Divert to What?” also creates a vision for what mental health care should look like in every community. This includes incorporating mental health care into primary care, offering case management support, and providing housing and other services. Communities must also make sure that the services and supports are working together to provide a coordinated response.


Building a System That Reflects Our Communities

Policy and system change will only be effective if they reflect the needs of the people in the communities they serve. People with mental illness and people of color — particularly Black people — are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Yet there is alarming evidence that people of color are less likely to be identified as having a mental health condition and less likely to receive treatment during incarceration.

As shocking as this might be, it is consistent with research that shows significant disparities in mental health care for racial and ethnic minorities. Communities of color are less likely to engage in mental health services and often receive poorer quality of care. We must address these inequalities by implementing culturally competent and trauma-informed care. Providers must recognize that people of color often distrust the health care system due to the history of abuse they have faced.

To reduce the stigma of mental illness in communities of color, primary care providers should integrate mental health screenings and care into their service delivery. Finally, advocacy groups, including NAMI, must commit to engaging groups of people who embody the diversity of our communities as we advocate for a better mental health system.

As communities discuss reforms to the criminal justice system, it is important to consider the ways in which other systems intersect with it. Effectively investing in the mental health system is the most logical way to support the diversion of the millions of people with mental illness who are incarcerated every year.

To learn more about NAMI’s advocacy and public policy work to reform the mental health system and mental health care, visit

Shannon Scully is Senior Manager, Criminal Justice Policy, Advocacy & Public Policy at NAMI.

Note: This piece was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of the Advocate.

This content was originally published here.

Teenagers’ demand for mental health care skyrocketed amid pandemic

Teenagers' demand for mental health care skyrocketed amid pandemic

Teenagers’ demand for mental health care skyrocketed last year amid the pandemic, even as their overall need for care declined, according to a new analysis by FAIR Health.

Why it matters: Parents, schools and pediatricians have been warning for months that kids aren’t OK, and this analysis backs up their concern with numbers.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has been disruptive to the lives of Americans of all ages, but for teenagers, the isolation and change in routine comes during a critical developmental stage.

By the numbers: Mental health care claim lines — or individual health services — for children 13-18 doubled in March and April of last year, compared to 2019.

Details: Females were much likelier to require mental health care than males.

What we’re watching: Mental health issues can be situational, but that doesn’t mean that once the pandemic ends, all will go back to normal.

This content was originally published here.

The NHL’s best and worst this week – Theo Fleury’s plan to better support mental health

The NHL's best and worst this week - Theo Fleury's plan to better support mental health

    Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

“Nobody knows what I’ve been doing since I left the game,” Theo Fleury says. “Everyone thinks I’m still this crazy person with problems and issues, but I’ve actually been trying to figure it out.”

Fleury last played in the NHL in 2003; he was suspended by the league for violating its substance abuse aftercare program, and never returned afterward. The winger, a 1,000-point scorer and Stanley Cup champion, previously entered the program voluntarily in 2001, seeking treatment for addiction.

Fleury, then with the Blackhawks, said he was approached by those around him, saying they heard rumors that he was struggling with abuse of drugs and alcohol. “There were tons of people wanting to help, but I wasn’t ready for the help,” Fleury said. “That’s part of the equation too. Ultimately, every time I went to treatment, I was saving my job, saving my marriage, doing it for everyone but myself.”

Fleury went to four different treatment centers, at four stages of the program. “I’ve never followed a rule in my life, so I’m not surprised I blew through four stages then got kicked out,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, at every treatment center I picked up tools that I use today to stay clean and sober.”

He continues: “I should have gone away for a whole entire year, worked on myself, got my s— together, and came back,” Fleury says. “I probably would have had eight or nine years playing if I had done that. But I didn’t. And we don’t know what we don’t know, right?”

Fleury’s addiction, he says, was a coping mechanism for managing his mental health. And that all stems back to trauma — Fleury revealed in his 2009 book that he was sexually abused by his junior coach — which is a lot to unpack. He’s still in that process, but now takes an enlightened and active role on the journey. What he’s learned? “I believe mental health is the biggest epidemic on the planet,” Fleury says. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Fleury, now 52 and living in Calgary, has been connected with other like-minded individuals, and has immersed himself into the mental health space.

“I get to hang around with neuroscientists and all types of amazing people who are smart,” Fleury says. “And they’re on speed-dial so I can have a conversation with them whenever I want.”

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That has led Fleury to pursue business ventures, which ultimately could help others. He just joined a virtual reality company, XR Medical Solutions, which uses sound to recalibrate the nervous system and create new pathways. Fleury is also sitting on the advisory board for Universal Ibogaine, a Canadian company working to combat the opioid epidemic through plant-based medicine. They’re currently doing trials in Mexico on Iboga, a root that grows in Africa.

“What it does is completely bypasses the detox off of opioids,” Fleury says. “A lot of people don’t want to get off opioids just for that fact. Because detox can be an exorcism. So this drug would help you bypass all of that, which would really help people’s recoveries.”

This month, Fleury is excited to launch a podcast entitled “We’re All A Little Crazy.” The co-hosts are Eric Kussin, the founder of #SameHere (the nonprofit Robin Lehner has supported, including on his helmet) and Darren Rovell, the former ESPN business reporter who now works at the Action Network.

Kussin said the podcast will focus conversations around current events — and how the media’s coverage of mental health can often be more damaging than helpful, especially if it doesn’t explain mental health in a larger context, or how things are interrelated. That’s why Fleury saw the need for a long-form format.

“There’s not enough men who are openly talking about their struggles with mental health, because of stigma,” Fleury says. “Just as many men suffer as women, but in my experience there’s really not a space created to have these conversations. We’re going to try to normalize how people should talk about the subject. Because there’s so much stigma. If you have mental health challenges, guess what? You’re in the majority, you’re not in the minority.”

The landscape in the NHL is reflective of society’s relationship with mental health, Fleury says. While there have been great strides with awareness about mental health, there are still “a ways to go” to better support players.

“Awareness about mental health is the only thing I see that’s different,” Fleury says. “Awareness, that’s it.”

Fleury uses the Flames, the team for whom he played 791 games, as an example.

“Calgary has a program called ‘Hockey Talks,'” Fleury says. “And it’s like, what are you guys actually talking about? They say, mental health. Well, what is mental health? What are you actually talking about? There are 30 layers to treating mental illness, and talking is one of the 30. That’s it. They use it as a way to get eyeballs and clicks and all that stuff. ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ in Canada, it gets 150 million impressions a year in one day. It’s good for business. What they’ve done is they created an incredible amount of awareness around the subject, but that’s it. So the awareness is there. But on the other side of the coin, we are seeing the highest suicide rates ever on our planet. So why isn’t all of this awareness turning into action and getting people well? Because we’re not talking about trauma. Trauma is the catalyst for all of this stuff.”

It’s one of the reasons launching the podcast now was important to Fleury.

“COVID is the most traumatic thing we’ve seen since World War II,” Fleury says. “Why are we seeing a higher rate of suicides? Why are we seeing a higher rate of overdoses and deaths? Because people are using that for a coping mechanism. And then when people lose hope — because we all don’t know when this will be over and return to some sort of normalcy — the whole entire world is living in high anxiety because we don’t know what’s going on. And then you’re isolated. The best way to deal with that is through connections and relationships, and we don’t even have that. We have Zoom screens.”

Talking it through, Fleury hopes, will help others realize they’re not alone.

A team turning plenty of heads this season is the Florida Panthers; at 13-4-3, they are neck-and-neck with the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning for the Central Division lead. The question everyone in the NHL is asking: Are the Panthers for real?

“I think if you would have told me before the season started, without watching our group, here’s what the record would be after [20] games that we’d have 29 points, I’d say, ‘Wow!'” Florida general manager Bill Zito told me this weekend. “But then when you watch the games, the guys have played really well.”

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Florida’s offense looks legit; for the second straight season, Florida is tracking as a top-10 team in goals per game. Zito, the first-year GM, deserves a lot of credit for the players he brought in. Newcomers Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist, Alex Wennberg and Carter Verhaeghe have combined for 52 points. But perhaps just as impressive in Joel Quenneville’s second campaign in Florida is how much he’s getting out of the now-veteran core. The defense looks much improved this season. Aaron Ekblad is playing some of his best hockey in five years in Florida.

Jonathan Huberdeau has surpassed Aleksander Barkov as everyone’s favorite answer for who is the league’s most underrated player. (Huberdeau is on pace for the equivalent of 20.5 GAR over a full season, tied for 15th-best among forwards, according to FiveThirtyEight). As for Barkov himself?

“Sasha, he’s really enjoying hockey,” Zito said. “It’s like you watch him, and he gets the puck, and you can just tell. He’s having fun. His leadership I think has been infectious. That whole leadership group really stepped up. Sasha, and Huby and Yandle. Keith Yandle!”

The 34-year-old defenseman, who was potentially going to be scratched in the season opener (which would have ended his 886-game ironman streak, which ranks third in NHL history) has been a revelation. “I mean, the offensive game for Yandle — he’s blessed, he’s a magician with the puck,” Zito said. “But on the other side of the game, he came out strong and was a leader on the ice.”

The most interesting aspect of Florida is their goaltending. Ahead of the season, the Panthers touted that they had formed a Goaltending Excellence Department. Zito explained the purpose was an integrated department to provide guidance and coaching for goalies from the moment they are drafted to when they reach the NHL. (The Panthers, it should be noted, have one of the league’s top goaltending prospects in 2019 first-rounder Spencer Knight). However, it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the department was formed, and all of a sudden unheralded 26-year-old Chris Driedger is suddenly playing out of his mind. (Driedger has the sixth-best save percentage, .928, of all goalies who have played at least six games this season).

Zito laughs at this notion. “I think that would be self-serving to just say we snapped our fingers to get that result,” Zito said. “You’ve got to give some credit to Chris Driedger. And I don’t know, is he playing out of his mind or did he start doing it last year? And he kind of got the chance, and showed what he can do. It’s funny, a lot of goalies, it just seems to happen that they come into their own a little bit later. Some people might say that because nobody gave them the chance earlier. … But it does happen where some pretty good goaltenders get their chance later or develop later, and they’re ready for the opportunity.”

Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky have each made 10 starts, though Driedger has outplayed the 32-year-old who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract ahead of last season. (Bobrovsky has a .899 save percentage so far, and is at minus-2.9 goals saved above average, while Driedger is at 6.33 GSAA, per Evolving Hockey). Asked if he is concerned about Bobrovsky not performing up to expectations, considering how big of an investment the organization has made in the goalie, Zito was emphatic.

“No, no,” he said. “There’s ebbs and flows in our game and we’re a team. We have to worry about day-to-day. We go to work every day as a team. … He’s the consummate professional, the hardest-working guy. As a general manager, he’s a pleasure to have, because he makes everyone around him better with his work ethic, his focus, and his diligence.”

Can the Panthers keep it up? Florida was embarrassed by the way it exited last year’s bubble, losing in four games to the Islanders in the qualifying round. The franchise has made it past the first round of the playoffs just once in the last two decades.

“Consistency is the key — trying to see if we can keep it going,” Zito said. “Can we play the right way, and continue to do what we’re doing?”

It’s not going to be easy for the Panthers, who had a lighter first-half schedule and are one of six teams feasibly in the race for four Central Division playoff spots (assuming the Dallas Stars can right their ship).

“I think fatigue is the thing that is going to creep in here as the season evolves,” Zito said. “Who can manage it as the play gets sloppier and guys get more and more tired and teams figure out how to manage themselves?”

Three stars of the week

The Wild are on a six-game winning streak and the veteran winger has been a catalyst, sparking a red-hot line with Victor Rask and Kirill Kaprizov. Zuccarello had two goals and six assists for eight points in four games this week.

Mats Zuccarello (@zuccarello36) finishes off some pretty passing on this one.

— NHL (@NHL)

Vasilevskiy’s new helmet may function like a mood ring, but the vibe has been great all week for the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner. He won all three starts (against the Canes and Stars) including two shutouts, for a .975 save percentage and 0.67 goals-against average.

Wait… what?! 😱

Andrei Vasilevskiy’s new mask changes colors.

(🎨 @Sylabrush)

— NHL (@NHL)

The 24-year-old is sometimes (um, almost always) under the microscope in a tough media market. Production is the best clapback. Nylander scored three goals in three games this week, including two game-winners.

Willie Nylander calls game

— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett)

What we liked this week

1. It’s a shame for American hockey fans that Brady and Matthew Tkachuk are both playing for Canadian teams, therefore getting less exposure down here. They’re two of the peskiest — but most electric — players in the league today. As father Keith told “I assume there are going to be a lot of guys in the Ottawa Senators dressing room who aren’t going to like Matthew, and vice versa in the Calgary room about Brady, if they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

We’re in the middle of the Tkachuk brothers facing off five times in an 11-game span, which has also generated some incredible content:

These photos of young Matthew & Brady Tkachuk posing with NHL stars are golden.

(📷 @Sportsnet)

— NHL (@NHL)

Both brothers scored on Saturday night — a 6-3 win by the Flames — but my favorite moment came as Brady Tkachuk began yapping at Calgary captain Mark Giordano on his way to the box for a tripping penalty. Matthew Tkachuk is seen laughing on the bench, saying: “Give it back to him, G!”

2. Kirill Kaprizov‘s edge work is insane. You see why so many Minnesota Wild general managers were desperate to get this winger over from the KHL (and might we remind you, he was a fifth-round pick). Kaprizov’s arrival has totally changed the complexion of the team; the line of Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello is one of the hottest in the league, having outscored teams 9-2 on the ice, with a 60.64 expected goals for percentage, per Natural Stat Trick.

Minnesota has won six in a row, the franchise’s longest winning streak since 2016. Kaprizov, meanwhile, has scored in consecutive games for the first time this season. Four of his six goals so far have come against the Kings, but it’s his vision, creativity and skating that have his teammates most impressed.

“He’s dangerous when he has time and space,” Zach Parise said. “He’s strong on the puck. If we get those scenarios, 3-on-3 or 4-on-4, he could have the puck on his stick for the whole shift.”

Kirill Kaprizov is blowing the minds of opposing team’s commentators

— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett)

3. J.J. Watt already put in the work to speak in hockey language. I wouldn’t mind this as a second act for him, at all.

Clappin an absolute heater up where grandma keeps the good stuff.

Just wish I had the lettuce and lip sweater to match the dangles.

Wouldn’t mind doing a few years on the pond after I hang up the cleats someday.


— JJ Watt (@JJWatt)

What we didn’t like this week

1. There are unwritten rules in the NHL. Before making their NHL debut, rookies get a solo lap. Skaters shouldn’t shoot high on their goalie in warm-ups. Nobody should shoot the puck after the whistle, period. In the general managers’ fraternity, offer sheets are frowned upon.

And then there’s the one that’s kind of uncomfortable to talk about: The coach of the Montreal Canadiens must speak French. (A joke I heard from a longtime NHL assistant coach this week: “You don’t have to be bilingual to coach the Habs, you just need to speak French).

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It’s a unique market, with about 80% of Quebecers using French as their first language, and previous tenures for English-only speaking coaches have not ended well. Interim coach Randy Cunneyworth was the last (in 2011), and his promotion was met with a firestorm of criticism — including from provincial culture minister, Christine St. Pierre, who said she hoped the Habs would “rectify the situation” but did not call for his firing, saying she was taking the team at their word that Cunneyworth’s job title was temporary.

Claude Julien was fired this week, which isn’t necessarily surprising given the pressure Habs GM Marc Bergevin feels to contend with the moves he made this offseason. I meant this as no disrespect to Dominique Ducharme, but I was surprised to see him get the nod at interim coach over Kirk Muller — a franchise legend himself, a former NHL head coach, and the man tapped to lead the team in the bubble when Julien had to go to the hospital for a heart procedure. Then again, I shouldn’t have really been surprised. Muller doesn’t speak French. Heck, when Muller was announced as interim in August (with Julien in the hospital) Bergevin felt the need to apologize.

“We understand that Kirk does not speak French,” Bergevin told reporters then. “But there are exceptional circumstances, and we’re asking you for your understanding.”

I understand the importance of finding someone who can communicate to their fans and the media in both languages, but I also wonder if the team is limiting itself from finding the most qualified candidate, all because of an arbitrary rule. This league is more international than ever. Its coaching force should, in theory, reflect that.

2. I mean, the whole “goal suppression” thing appears to be an issue in the North Division:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

– Wayne Gretzky
– Michael Scott
– Erik Brannstrom #GoSensGo

— Ottawa Senators (@Senators)

3. Jordan Binnington got pulled on Saturday night after allowing four goals to the Sharks (the Blues would win, 7-6), and the Blues goalie was quite upset thereafter:

Things get heated as Jordan Binnington exits the game.
Stream: FSGO –

— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest)

Remember, this is the same Binnington who got a penalty for slashing an unsuspecting Ben Bishop during the commercial break of a playoff game in 2019.

It was funny watching completely different reactions. St. Louis seems happy to get behind Binnington’s passions. “Give me 20 Binningtons!” former Blues defenseman and current St. Louis radio host Jamie Rivers tweeted.

Then there’s Binnington’s San Jose counterpart Devan Dubnyk in a postgame interview: “I don’t know why he’s skating around, pretending to punch guys. I told him to get off the ice; he’s 165 pounds, swinging at guys, fake punching guys.”

Top games on tap this week

Note: All times Eastern.

Another round of Connor McDavid vs. Auston Matthews? Don’t mind if we do (provided that Matthews can play after being held out of Saturday’s tilt with Edmonton due to a wrist injury). The Oilers are on a torrid stretch, having lost just twice since Jan. 30 (best record in the NHL in that span). Matthews has been nursing that wrist injury, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting him too much when he plays; the only difference is he’s not being set up as much for one-timers.

Tuesday, March 2: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m.

Ron Hextall was the general manager for the Flyers for nearly four years, building one of the top prospect systems in the league. But he was fired in 2018, and only now is Philly enjoying the work Hextall put in. Now the GM of the Penguins, Hextall faces his former team for the first time. The intrastate rivals have not met since a two-game series to open the season.

Wednesday, March 3: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m.

This is the NBC Sports primetime game on Wednesday, the first of a two-game series for these teams. The obvious storyline is Zdeno Chara once again facing the team he captained for 14 seasons. The Caps are getting past some new coach growing pains, and are hoping Ilya Samsonov can return to form after a rough start to the season, including a bout with COVID.

Social media post of the week

A legitimately great question posed here. These photos are stunning:

Why aren’t more hockey photos taken from an overhead angle? These are from Leafs team photographer @mblinch (who captured the famous Kawhi shot) from an overhead camera with a strobe, and they’re like goddamn Renaissance paintings

— ℳatt (@matttomic)

This content was originally published here.

Boy heroically calms little brother down with breathing exercise

Boy heroically calms little brother down with breathing exercise

Most parents are at a loss when it comes to stopping their child’s temper tantrum, but this 6-year-old boy knew a trick to calm his little brother down and it’s the definition of brotherly love.

Ashley West, 30, of Los Angeles, California saw her middle son, Noah, using a breathing technique on his little brother, Cory, 4, who was on the verge of a meltdown and quickly decided to film the special moment. The clip of her little guy helping his brother calm down quickly went viral on Twitter last Sunday, and was then shared across other social media platforms. (It even became Hoda’s Morning Boost on Tuesday!)

Watch this 6-year-old calm his little brother down

“Okay so… I really was not expecting this video to blow up the way it did !” West posted on Instagram on Tuesday. “If you know me then you know the kids and I are ALWAYS meditating and practicing controlling our breathing / managing our emotions.”

West told TODAY Parents that that the breathing technique her son demonstrates in the video is something that’s really come in handy during the pandemic.

“Coping during COVID has been stressful as a stay home parent and graduate student,” said West, who is working toward a masters in social work at USC. “I do yoga and meditate as a form of release and relief as well as exercise. The kids will sometimes join me but they definitely watch me all the time.”

In the short video, Cory is on the verge of a tantrum due to the fact that his Nintendo is not charged. Noah heads off the situation by engaging his little brother and demonstrating the breathing, inhaling through his nose and exhaling through his mouth. “Breathe,” he says, gaining Cory’s undivided attention. When the little guy calms down, he gives him a pat on the shoulder. “See it helps you calm down,” he says.

West is mom to three boys — Amar, 9, Noah and Cory.

“Noah’s temperament used to be extremely bad,” she said of her middle son. “I’ve made a habit out of encouraging them to stop, and take a few breaths when they are upset and angry, or when their emotions are heightened.”

And although Noah has the techniques to help himself under his belt, West was surprised to see him using them on his brother.

“Noah will usually stop and talk to himself when he is angry or upset and tell himself to calm down, but in that moment seeing him co-regulate with his brother was a first for me which prompted me to record it,” she said.

West said she learned these calming techniques from working with psychologists and behavioral therapists as a social worker and thought she could apply the principles in her own home to address her kids’ negative and undesired behaviors.

“They don’t 100% have it down but I have noticed a lot of improvement with their behaviors and attitudes since introducing them to this exercise,” she said.

Video has since been shared across multiple social media platforms and has melted the heart of pretty much anyone who has viewed it.

“They are always looking out for one another.”

“I was definitely shocked to see the video spread so quickly,” said West. “I have received thousands of messages from parents, professional and media outlets telling me what a wonderful feeling they had watching my kiddo’s positive reinforcement with his brother. People from literally all over the world — Israel, Canada, Singapore, U.K. — all saying how they loved it and feel inspired which is one extremely positive and heartwarming feeling to have as a parent.”

And although the video is incredibly sweet, West said that her sons act like normal brothers most of the time. “They fight and bicker like normal siblings do but they are also absolutely the best of friends,” she said. “I encourage them to believe and move as if they are each other’s ‘keepers’ and they do — they are always looking out for one another.”

This content was originally published here.