depression

Shane Boylan: Riding Out Ahead of His Father’s Depression

They say a lot of things in life are as easy as riding a bike. For Shane Boylan, riding a bike is perhaps the most beautifully difficult thing he’ll ever do. Shane, an 11-year-old from Highland Park, New Jersey, is making sure people never forget that depression can take a devastating toll on countless people worldwide. According to the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, a depressed person dies from suicide every 14 minutes in the US. It’s a staggering statistic that, unfortunately, hit too close to home for Shane last year. His father (and avid bike rider), Timothy, took his life after a battle with depression and alcoholism. Shane, however, didn’t let the tragedy get the better of him. He started asking questions, hoping to help other families avoid the same suffering. Eventually, Shane hopped on his own bike to take action.

Depression and AlcoholismNow in its second year, Shane’s “Depression Doesn’t Ride” fundraiser was an eleven-mile journey to raise money to raise awareness and combat depression. (Every year, the distance grows to match Shane’s age.) “Last year, we had no idea how many people to expect,” Shane’s mother Aanika said, claiming that they were originally overwhelmed by the turnout. “It was really shocking and surprising to see so many people come out.” What started off as an homage to Shane’s dad turned into something much larger and inspiring for others, with everyone from USA Today to The Huffington Post picking up the story. In fact, Shane’s original goal of $400 to fund depression research quickly reached $4,000—all of which was donated to the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Held just after Father’s Day this year, even more riders came out to participate than in 2016. “There were more people riding with us than there were watching us ride, which was good,” Shane said, noting that there were dozens of others pedaling alongside him.

The ride is a lot more than just the time spent on a bike seat, too. According to Shane’s mother, it’s about the conversation it gets going. “It’s really remarkable how many people share their personal connections to addiction and depression,” Aanika said. “Once you mention the ride, it really opens up the doors for conversations about depression. People start talking about their own issues—and that’s healing for us and for the people willing to share their stories with us.” And it’s a conversation definitely worth having, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 out of 20 Americans suffer from depression. If nothing else, Shane’s ride reveals that no one is truly alone in their battle.

“The overall support has been wonderful,” Aanika said, practically smiling through the phone. “At his school and in our community and neighborhood, everyone cheers him on and acknowledges what he’s doing.” Louisa Benton, Executive Director of Hope for Depression, goes one step further in saying that Shane’s event is both unique and quietly profound. “Shane is wise beyond his years,” Benton said. “What he’s doing can change the world, and that’s what touches us so deeply. He represents the future and is an ambassador of hope.” At the end of the day, however, Shane takes all of that attention in stride. He’s a kid who’s as unassuming as he is determined, crossing the finish line with a pretty straightforward motivation: “I just think of my father and I keep going for him,” he said.

And while this year’s path hasn’t changed (it’s the same hour-long journey around historic Johnson Park, through the colonial buildings of East Jersey Olde Towne), the mood was certainly different for Shane’s mother. Where the first year was overwhelming on a number of levels, this year’s ride was hugely sentimental. “There was a picture of Shane this year riding in Johnson Park and I suddenly remembered years ago, back in 1991, that Tim and I were at the same place. The park had been flooded and we’d had our picture taken there,” Aanika said. “This year, that was a profound moment for me: Shane was riding in the exact same park where his father and I had been.”

The ride is clearly as meaningful as it is cathartic for Shane and his mother. Still, it’s not the memories or the outpouring of support that’s the most rewarding part of the experience. No, it’s seeing Shane turn an activity his father loved into something that’s rewarding, heartwarming, and important to countless others. “[Shane’s dad] was already proud of Shane,” Aanika said, “but he would be extremely proud of what he’s done.” For his part, Shane plans on riding, year after year, in memory of his father. And for a kid who crossed the finish line and immediately thought, “Is it really over?”, his singular fight against depression is nowhere close to being finished.

If you’re interested in helping Shane get started for his 2018 ride, visit the HDRF website (http://www.hopefordepression.org). At the bottom of the Donate page, in the “In Memory Of/Comments” section, write “Shane’s Ride.”

Is Alcoholism a Disability and Protected by Law?

The Disability Discrimination Act states that alcoholism is not included under its list of protected disabilities, however, courts in the U.S. and Canada have ruled on a case-by-case basis that alcoholism is a disability that is protected by law. This means that alcoholics maintain certain rights and privileges. For example, it would be legally questionable to fire an alcoholic employee for behavior related to their alcoholism. The government provides assistance to people suffering from alcoholism in the form of food stamps and subsidized housing. Certainly, there are generous interpretations to the law and even loopholes. For instance, even if a judge were to rule against protecting alcoholism as a disability, the conditions that result from this disease, such as depression or cirrhosis, may qualify for protection. But the bottom line is that major organizations, such as the ACLU and American Medical Association, view alcoholism as a disability.

There are two competing sets of recommendations at odds in laws regarding the workplace. At the same time that the Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates that employers are responsible for making sure that a professional environment is devoid of illegal substances and their use, this same law states that workers who are recovering from addiction are entitled to protection. However, the process of recovery is almost never a straight line, and is often fraught with relapse. At what point is someone “recovering” versus a “user”?

2 Things to Consider Before Firing an Employee

DisabilityEmployers who might be considering firing an employee because of his or her excessive drinking need to take a few things into consideration, given that courts have returned rulings that view it as a protected disability. First, equal treatment for all employees. If a number of employees have drinking problems, then one or two cannot be selected for termination. This is difficult grey area because employers should document the difference between moderate to heavy drinking and an actual addiction. It’s extremely challenging in certain employment sectors, such as the restaurant industry, where alcohol consumption tends to be quite widespread. Second, the excessive drinking has to interfere with the performance of employee’s job and lessen the quality of their work. This can also prove to be challenging to distinguish and document.

Drug use is a bit more problematic of a category than alcoholism because of the illegal nature of those substances. It is clearly stated in the law that illegal drug use is not considered a disability, however, it is legal in the U.S. for anyone over the age of 21 to consume alcohol, so alcoholism, in not involving with illegal substances, is more readily treated as a disability in the workplace than any other addiction. Testing for illegal drug use is not a violation of protection for disabilities.

Recovering alcoholics who are not currently drinking are the clearest category protected under the disability act. Employers must provide reasonable accommodation of alcoholism as a disability. This means to offer the employee a special schedule in order to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The official disability awards is based functional limitation caused by alcoholism.

The Disability Discrimination Act states that alcoholism is not included under its list of protected disabilities, however, courts in the U.S. and Canada have ruled on a case-by-case basis that alcoholism is a disability that is protected by law. This means that alcoholics maintain certain rights and privileges. For example, it would be legally questionable to fire an alcoholic employee for behavior related to their alcoholism. The government provides assistance to people suffering from alcoholism in the form of food stamps and subsidized housing. Certainly, there are generous interpretations to the law and even loopholes. For instance, even if a judge were to rule against protecting alcoholism as a disability, the conditions that result from this disease, such as depression or cirrhosis, may qualify for protection. But the bottom line is that major organizations, such as the ACLU and American Medical Association, view alcoholism as a disability.

There are two competing sets of recommendations at odds in laws regarding the workplace. At the same time that the Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates that employers are responsible for making sure that a professional environment is devoid of illegal substances and their use, this same law states that workers who are recovering from addiction are entitled to protection. However, the process of recovery is almost never a straight line, and is often fraught with relapse. At what point is someone “recovering” versus a “user”?

2 Things to Consider Before Firing an Employee

Disability

Employers who might be considering firing an employee because of his or her excessive drinking need to take a few things into consideration, given that courts have returned rulings that view it as a protected disability. First, equal treatment for all employees. If a number of employees have drinking problems, then one or two cannot be selected for termination. This is difficult grey area because employers should document the difference between moderate to heavy drinking and an actual addiction. It’s extremely challenging in certain employment sectors, such as the restaurant industry, where alcohol consumption tends to be quite widespread. Second, the excessive drinking has to interfere with the performance of employee’s job and lessen the quality of their work. This can also prove to be challenging to distinguish and document.

Drug use is a bit more problematic of a category than alcoholism because of the illegal nature of those substances. It is clearly stated in the law that illegal drug use is not considered a disability, however, it is legal in the U.S. for anyone over the age of 21 to consume alcohol, so alcoholism, in not involving with illegal substances, is more readily treated as a disability in the workplace than any other addiction. Testing for illegal drug use is not a violation of protection for disabilities.

Recovering alcoholics who are not currently drinking are the clearest category protected under the disability act. Employers must provide reasonable accommodation of alcoholism as a disability. This means to offer the employee a special schedule in order to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The official disability awards is based functional limitation caused by alcoholism.