Paul Butler | Seek help — or offer assistance — with work stresses


My wife and I have set ourselves a goal to run a half-marathon in every state. Up until the onset of the pandemic we’d completed nine over the last three years. We did actually turn up for No. 10 (Montana) but it was canceled the day we arrived in town. We did have a fun time, though, with our Airbnb hosts in Montana — we ate an elk they’d killed the previous spring. That’s something you don’t do every day where I’m from. 

We’ve decided to train for No. 11 (if we can count the canceled mission to Montana as No. 10) as if it’s all going ahead — that’ll be Texas in early May. So, this past Sunday we had 5 miles to run on our training schedule very early that morning. Sadly, I set out on my own as my wife has a small foot injury that should be all healed by mid-week. 

Just as I turned into Creekside Road, I heard what I thought was a pack of coyotes only to realize it was a woman standing in the middle of the parking lot screaming at the top of the voice. I stopped in my tracks, took out the earbuds and looked across to the lot. She sounded like a wild banshee as her shriek was, of course, even louder to me now as I got closer with my ears wide open. 

As I approached her, something welled up from deep inside me that stilled me and then spun me around in the opposite direction. I sensed this wasn’t something I could help with — her screams didn’t sound like sorrow but rather a cackling craziness. I popped the earbuds back in and jogged off, not wanting to get caught up in what seemed like a weird and wacky situation. 

When I got home and regaled the event to my wife, part of me was relieved I didn’t get involved but I started to feel guilt that maybe I should have stepped in to see if I could have helped — like the tale of the Good Samaritan. I consoled myself by trying to convince myself it was “none of my business,” but part of me was thinking I should have made it part of my business as a fellow human being. 

This little interlude set me thinking about the strange days in which we’re working. Homes have become workplaces for many. Parents doing the best they can to balance their workplace responsibilities while needing to be on call constantly through the day and often long into the evening to help children with their schoolwork. Everybody on top of everybody. 

Even though the screams of our work colleagues, overwhelmed with frustration, may be silent, there are still telltale signs. Is there a terseness in their response to emails? Is their camera always off during another Zoom meeting? Do they always seem to be late or scrambling on their deadlines? Do they joke a lot about turning to alcohol to get them through the evenings (and worse still, during the day)? Do you get the sense the relational and emotional support that we all need is falling apart at the seams in their life? 

If any of this rings true for you or for someone you work with, please seek assistance for yourself or come alongside the person to see if you can help. At a minimum, raise your concern confidentially with the human resources department, assuming you have one. Don’t do what I did — metaphorically putting your earbuds back in and running away from the issue. 

The calamity on Creekside may have been nothing or it may have been everything. As a fellow human being, I should have cautiously wandered over to see if could have helped or at least call for help. Maybe you or someone you work with feels just like that person I saw across from the paseo. Let’s be sure to seek help and help others during these dark, dark times. I am hopeful the morning light is coming very soon. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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