Jul 20

How can we trust each other during this pandemic when most of the news is fake

Over the last few months, we’ve seen so much fake news and media, all with the same purpose, to invoke fear, or invoke riots and chaos among our society. The toxic combination of fake news and low levels of trust among people has resulted in worrying scenes of people gathering on beaches in very large groups, ignoring social distancing precautions set by the government, and you could easily argue, why wouldn’t they? They no longer know what to believe, and you can’t blame them for it. I myself, am finding it very hard to believe that COVID-19 even exists anymore. This is due to the media and its incontinences and false numbers in reports.

However, research found by Edelman in March 2020, found that after health authorities, employers were most trusted to respond effectively to the pandemic. This is very encouraging, especially as employees being to return to their workplace, it’s never been important that people follow the safety measures and trust the advice that their employer is giving them is correct. The consequences of non-compliance could be detrimental to our health and also to the viability of the business we work for. Just one confirmed case of COVID-19 can lead to the whole staff having to self-isolate, which is far from ideal, and can no longer keep going on.

So, as internal communicators, how do we make sure that the message is understood and trusted against the backdrop of fake news and conspiracy theories? We must create a single source of truth. Many internal communication teams have been doing this since the stay at home order began, creating one place that employees know contains up to date and accurate information. We must identify which channels are the most trusted and make sure that as employees return to their workplace, that they have access to this and it is updated on a regular basis. It is also very important to make sure there is alignment. Managers and leaders need to be aware of the key messages and repeat them, being weary as to not contradict or confuse their staff. They also need to be conscious of sharing external sources that have not yet been fact checked, or responding to questions that they are not yet sure of the right answer.

However, a single source of truth will only work during a situation like the one we are currently in, if the employees trust the communications they receive and have access to. Creating a dedicated website, or choosing a spokesperson is a good idea, but if trust was already suffering inside your business, then that will not change in a day. Building and retaining trust should be the key part in the way we communicate always, not just in these times and times of crisis.

We must also have empathy, as employees are more likely to trust that businesses that are fully prepared for their employees return to work if the communication they receive is correct and verifiable. This means that showing empathy while communicating, and remembering that while we have all lived through this pandemic, our individual experiences from it are very different. Business owners and managers must also acknowledge that people may have different feelings about returning to work. Some people may have concerns about their own health and well-being, while others may not, and some people may be grieving from losing someone they love to the pandemic. Others might be excited and eager to return to work, having spent too much time at home in isolation on their own, and in challenging circumstances. Business owners and managers should share their own experiences and what they found challenging about it with their employees, that way they make themselves more relatable and develop a trustworthy and intimate relationship.

It is also very important to remember to share stories from your first experience back to work with others who are just returning,  this will help others begin to visualize what it will be like and trust that the right decisions are being made, and mandatory precautions are in place. Remember to share some of your challenges as well, and what you have learned from going through this process and how you’ve adapted. This will help to ensure that the stories are authentic, and you will be more likely to be trusted among your colleagues. As much as people need to hear from their leaders, they are also more likely to trust the people them know are doing similar roles to theirs, or working in the same environments. In the book “Inside the Nudge Unit” David Halpern talk about the EAST model, which a framework created to help people apply nudge theory. The social element of the model talks about how we are greatly influenced by those around us (Halpern, 2015).

For example, even if we know that wearing a mask is the safer thing to do, if no one else is wearing one, that we are less likely to do it. That is why sharing stories can be a very successful way in encouraging the right behaviors by demonstrating others following good practice. The next few weeks and months to come will be a very important and critical time for businesses as they being to get used to the new reality. Internal communicators have a large role to play in developing and maintaining trust, in order to ensure that employees are not only informed, but are also displaying the right behaviors.



Halpern, D. (2018, February 09). Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference – David Halpern (2015). Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/resources/books/inside-the-nudge-unit-how-small-changes-can-make-a-big-difference-david-halpern-2015/

Edelman. (2020). Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and the Coronavirus [Pamphlet]. Edelman. Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.edelman.com/sites/g/files/aatuss191/files/2020-03/2020%20Edelman%20Trust%20Barometer%20Brands%20and%20the%20Coronavirus.pdf

Jul 20

We Need More Interracial Contact

When we speak about race, you’ll find that most Americans agree that people of all races and ethnicities should be treated equally and with respect. However, personal experiences and news reports show us that race and ethnicity continues to be a problem and it affects how people are treated and how we all interact with each other on a daily basis. Most of us are aware that racial prejudice has a major impact on our lives and on our community. However, prejudice alone does not fully account for all racial dynamics, including occurrences where people of color may experience different treatment from white people. Therefore, we must realize the impact of racial anxiety (the discomfort people feel in anticipation of or during interracial interactions).

Most of us are concerned about how we may be perceived when we are communicating with others who come from different racial groups or ethnicities, and this can make us feel unsure about how to act. In the subject of race, this concern may be particularly severe, as people of color worry that they will fall victim to racial bias and white people worry that their words or actions will be misconstrued or assumed to be racist. This anxiety very often comes from lack of experience in interacting or being around other racial groups, this leads us to develop cultural stereotypes or distorted perceptions about what other groups are like.

Racial anxiety can be interpreted into behaviors that may seem to be bias, for example, the following are all examples of symptoms of racial anxiety:

  • maintaining less eye contact
  • keeping a physical distance
  • smiling less
  • using an aggressive or less friendly verbal tone, or even
  • avoiding all interactions with people from other races altogether

All these behaviors can have major repercussions for perpetuating racial injustices, for example, a white teacher to appear to be engaging less with students color due to awkward body language, or by actually engaging less with students of color. Also, white employers conducting shorter interviews with non-white applicants, or patients of a certain race being less trusting of doctors from a different race. In addition, avoidance and distancing behaviors can also be due to racial prejudice, and people of different race may interpret these behaviors to be coming from racial prejudice, instead of interpreting them as a result of anxiety about interacting with other racial groups.

However, fortunately, racial anxiety is something that can be changed. This would require us to reach beyond our segregated friendship circles or communities, and develop meaningful relationships with people of other races, this has been proven by psychological research (Tropp, 2011). The more we do, the more we can:

  • develop positive attitudes/empathy with people of other races
  • gain confidence about navigating cross race interactions in the future, and
  • alleviate our anxieties about cross race interactions

Positive experiences with people from other races can also help to lower the impact of negative cross racial encounters and help to make people more resilient when they engage in stressful interactions in the future. Most importantly, the advantage of cross race contact may not occur right away, one brief meeting between strangers or acquaintances can induce anxiety, especially for those with a brief history of interracial experiences. People usually become more comfortable with one another through repeated interactions across racial lines that grow closer over time. Even among people that show high levels of racial bias, physiological signs of stress can decrease through repeated interracial interactions, which can in turn cause future interracial experiences to be more positive in nature.

The circumstances in which people from different races come into contact matter. Reduced prejudice and racial anxiety happens most often when people from different races work together as equals towards a common goal, institutional support that endorses this kind of equal status also helps a great deal. Some examples of how these conditions can facilitate familiarity, positive changes and mutual respect in interracial attitudes are integrated sports teams and cooperative learning strategies. However, such favorable conditions can’t always be guaranteed across different situations. We may use these additional strategies to help create a common sense of identity and increase the potential for members from different groups to become friends, we can do this by establishing norms that promote interaction and empathy between groups and encourage respect for group differences.

However, given the fact that most of our communities and social circles remain segregated, it can be difficult to achieve interracial contact. Racial anxiety is usually a byproduct of racially similar environments, which render cross race interaction less likely and increase the changes that it will be less positive if it does occur. In such cases like these, indirect forms of contact, such as observing positive interracial interactions, or knowing that members of your racial group have friends and/or acquaintances in other racial groups, can help to reduce anxiety, promote more positive expectation for future interracial interactions, and create positive shifts in attitude.

The most important thing is to continue to reduce the impact of racial bias and prejudice, and address the structural and institutional conditions that perpetuate our country’s history of racial discrimination. While engaging in these efforts, we must also realize that addressing our racial anxiety is critical if we hope to achieve long-term goals in removing racialized barriers to belonging, opportunity, and inclusion.

We can use intergroup contact techniques to reduce racial anxiety and promote positive interracial relationships as an important complement to other anti-discrimination efforts. We can all benefit from moving past the confines of our group boundaries and into a broader more open circle of friendships, relationships, and colleagues.


Pettigrew, Thomas & Tropp, L.R.. (2012). When groups meet: The dynamics of intergroup contact. When Groups Meet: The Dynamics of Intergroup Contact. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from 1-310. 10.4324/9780203826461.

Tropp, L. R., & Mallett, R. K. (Eds.). (2011). Moving beyond prejudice reduction: Pathways to positive intergroup relations. American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1037/12319-000




Jul 20

The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Adult Aggression

Children who experience abuse, family dysfunction, and/or neglect, have a higher risk of developing health problems such as drug addiction, depression, obesity, and heart disease in adulthood. This notion is widely accepted, and has been proven in a series of studies that are funded by the Kaiser Permanente and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Kaiser and CDC project have collected a large database of the life histories and health of middle class residents that live in San Diego, California.

A San Diego psychologist has established that project’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) survey to link these negative childhood experiences with adult aggression and criminal activity, including violence, stalking, sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence. In fact, the study found that the correlation is additive. The more types of difficulties a person undergoes in childhood, the higher the likelihood of engaging in criminal aggression as an adult.

The men in the study who were referred to outpatient treatment following their convictions for sexual offending, domestic violence, nonsexual child abuse, or stalking, reported about four times as many distressful childhood events compared to men in the general population. The men that were convicted of child abuse and sex offenses were more likely to report being sexually abused as children.

The link between the early damage and the later aggression explains why treatment programs that focus mainly on criminal acts are not as effective as they can be (Reavis, 2013). “To reduce criminal behavior one must go back to the past in treatment, as Freud admonished us nearly 100 years ago,” wrote Reavis in a Spring 2013 issue of The Permanente Journal. “Fortunately, evidence exists in support of both attachment based interventions designed to normalize brain functioning and in the efficacy of psychoanalytic treatment (Reavis, 2013).

So why is there a link between aggression and abuse? The combined experiences of neglect and abuse disrupt the child’s ability to regulate his emotions and to form secure attachments to others (Reavis, 2013). Therefore, men that were abused as children tend to either avoid intimacy completely, or are at risk to become violent in their intimate relationships, this is due to a “bleeding out” of their suppressed inner rage (Reavis, 2013). Not only should treatment for offenders focus on healing their neurobiological wounds, but the research also points to the need for more early childhood interventions in order to stop child abuse before its victims grow up to victimize others.


Reavis, J. A., PsyD, Looman, J., PhD, Franco, K. A., & Rojas, B. (2013, March). Adverse childhood experiences and adult criminality: How long must we live before we possess our own lives? Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662280/

Jul 20

For some criminals, Halloween is the MOST DREADED time of the year!


For most of us, Halloween is the best time of the year! The trick-or-treating, getting candy, or giving out candy, perhaps even throwing a party. However, for many convicted sex offenders, it is the most dreaded time of the year. Sex offenders require curfews, mandatory “no candy” signs on their doors, group roundups, and even spot checks for compliance are all among the various techniques of control designed to protect the public.

Contrary to the belief that sex offenders should be feared on Halloween, sex offenders are actually not out kidnapping and molesting children on Halloween, and they never have been. In the published study “How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters?: An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween”, it proved that there is no Halloween spike in sex crimes against children. “The wide net cast by Halloween laws places some degree of burden on law enforcement officers whose time would otherwise be put to better use in addressing more probable dangerous events” (Levenson, 2009). Levenson’s theory, published in the journal, Sexual Abuse, examined crime trends over a 9 year period.

The researchers used data from the National Incident Base Reporting System to evaluate crime trends in 30 U.S states over a 9 year time frame. They didn’t find any increased rate of sexual abuse during Halloween or during the Halloween season. In fact, the number of reported incidents didn’t rise or fall after the police put in place these current procedures. However, unfortunately, empirical evidence seems to be incapable of bringing common sense to bear. Probation officers continue to put in place these ridiculous roundups and other once a year restrictions on sex offenders, instead of aiming their focus on the real threat to children, which I will cover in a moment.

All over the USA on Halloween, probation and parole officers will continue to require convicted sex offenders to not answer their doors, wear costumes, or decorate their homes on Halloween. They are ordered to post a “NO CANDY HERE” sign on their doors (like the one seen above). Others must attend special Halloween “counseling sessions” or “movie nights” where they are monitored. The restrictions are so widespread and varied, despite at least one federal court ruling that the restrictions were overly broad, and ridicule from late night TV pundits of some of the sillier Halloween restrictions.

The ridiculous crackdowns are a perfect example of what Scott Henson from the Grits for Breakfast Blog calls “security theater”, security theater is hyping and pretending to solve a threat that in reality is very remote, even to the point of diverting resources from policing activities like DUI enforcement that would protect much more people and actually save lives. So why Halloween, you might ask? After all, most sex offenders go after people they know, not after children they see in the street. Also, sex offenses are usually committed by men who have never been caught for a past sex offense. Furthermore, registered sex offenders usually feel branded and excluded so most of them are in hiding or stay on the down low.

The scare feeds into a deeper rooted cultural fear of the “bogeyman stranger”, this fear is memorialized in the Halloween legend of so called “tainted candy” that has endured despite countless attempts at correction. Benjamin Radford, of the Skeptical Enquirer discussed the persistence of the stranger danger myth: “despite email warnings, scary stories, and Ann Landers columns to the contrary, there have been only two confirmed cases of children being killed by poisonous candy on Halloween, and in both cases, the children were killed not in a random act by strangers but intentional murder by one of their parents.” (Radford, 2005).

The sad part about both myths is that children are taught a message of fear: Strangers, or even their own neighbors, might try to poison or molest them. I remember the first time I heard this myth, when I was 9 years old, and was trick-or-treating with my friend from school, and when we got home, naturally, I was eager to start eating my candy, however, my friend told me that she cannot eat the candy because her mother has to check it first. I remember being shocked, and thinking why on earth would anyone poison candy for trick-or-treaters? I didn’t believe it, after all, I had been trick-or-treating for years and I never was poisoned! So I just assumed her mother was crazy, but later on, I came to learn that this is a very common belief among most parents in the USA.

So, what is the real danger that children face on Halloween? It’s the one your mother always warned you about: getting hit by a speeding car while crossing a dark street. Car accidents kill about 8,000 children every year in the USA (Vieru, 2008), and children are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car while walking on Halloween night, then any other time of the year (Children’s National, 2020). So maybe next Halloween, show some compassion toward a publicly identified sex offender (or not, up to you!). BUT PLEASE, children, don’t get too friendly with cars!


Levenson, J., & Chaffin, M. (2009, July 6). How Safe Are Trick-or-Treaters?: An Analysis of Child Sex Crime Rates on Halloween – Mark Chaffin, Jill Levenson, Elizabeth Letourneau, Paul Stern, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1079063209340143

Henson, S. (n.d.). Grits for Breakfast. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/

Radford, B. (2005, October 25). Candy Fears are Mere Halloween Phantoms. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.livescience.com/434-candy-fears-mere-halloween-phantoms.html

Vieru, T. (2008, December 11). WHO Says 830,000 Kids Are Killed Annually by Accident. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://news.softpedia.com/news/WHO-Says-830-000-Kids-Are-Killed-Annually-by-Accident-99829.shtml

(n.d.). Halloween Safety On and Off the Road. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/autumn/halloween

(n.d.). Be Safe, Be Seen on Halloween. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.safekids.org/be-safe-be-seen-halloween

Jul 20

Mental Health in the Workplace

I wish that back in 2016 I could have seen what my life would have been like today, as I feel like a completely different person, my whole attitude towards life and mental health has completely changed for the better. Back in 2016, I was working at a job that was excellent for my career however, I really disliked the working environment. I was suffering from mental health issues at the time, and could barely get myself out the door, let alone, out of bed. Every day I would question myself if I had the strength to get through the day.

I decided to share my mental health issues with my boss, thinking that him knowing what I’m going through would help with the overall work environment, however, the situation just got much worse. I was repeatedly belittled, and told that my mental health was having a negative impact on my coworkers, and that I couldn’t work flexible hours because he didn’t want my coworkers to think I was getting special treatment, even though, everyone had flexible working hours as it was part of the work policy.

When I would take days off for being sick, I would receive emails that were of bullying nature, and when I was diagnosed with depression, I was told by my boss that I am making his job harder. This all happened at a time when I was finding it difficult to see the bigger picture because I was stuck in this black hole of depression. Therefore, I took all that happened very seriously, and was very sensitive to it all, and this made my depression much worse.

I didn’t get the help I needed or deserved from my workplace, until I decided to make a formal complaint of harassment and bullying after months of receiving all these negative comments and associations regarding to my mental health. If my boss and my coworkers had training to teach them how to support someone with a mental health issue, I might have still been there. I will never forget the feeling I felt every day before going to work, always fearing what my boss will say to me, and the feeling of not wanting to wake up the next day.

To feel like I had gone from someone who strived in her career, to being told that I was failing to make a contribution, was very upsetting. I eventually received an apology from my boss, and soon after he left the company. I ended up finally getting the help I needed to help me move on from that experience, and I was able to manage my mental health at work. I don’t feel depressed anymore, however, I now know that my depression can creep up on me at any time, like it has before. There are days that I feel as if a dark cloud has come over me, however, I’ve learned to accept these feelings, and deal with them as they come.

Now I can finally look back on this negative experience I had at work as a learning experience. It taught me to grow and accept my mental health issues, rather than be ashamed of them, or fear what others may say or think. Now I have the confidence to stand up for myself and know what is best for me, and when to ask for help to get the support I need. In facing one of the hardest years of my life, I have learned what true resilience really is. I wish that my workplace had been given the support that they needed to be able to support me. Both my boss and I had to give up our careers at an amazing job just because neither of us knew how to cope with mental health issues at the time. Mental health education and training is very important as we all deserve to feel safe at work, or any other environment.

When we are feeling weak, we need the support of our workplace in order to provide us with the flexibility we need to be well, and also to be productive. Without a correct understanding of mental health at work, the same thing that happened to me will continue, and it will continue to be the norm as it is in most places now.

I recently read a few articles about bullying and mental health at work, and while this made me realize I am not alone, it also made me realize just how important it is to be able to speak up and openly about mental health and to share how we are feeling. We must call out any injustices that we see people with mental health issues facing at work, if we do not, then we will not make any real change for the future. No one should suffer what I suffered and be belittled into thinking that their mental health is a burden because their boss doesn’t have the right experience or training to support them.

All mental health issues are difficult for the one suffering them, and for the people around them. However, with the right tools and the right help, they can have a successful career. We have a long way to go to get there, but there is hope. I didn’t feel that way back then, but I definitely feel it now. It really is time that we change the way the world views mental health.



Mental Health in the Workplace. (2019, April 10). Retrieved July 26, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html

Publishing, H. (2010, February). Mental health problems in the workplace. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-health-problems-in-the-workplace




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