A Concert for Mental Health… and Hope

Ithaca College’s music students and faculty staged an unforgettable show featuring Broadway hits, old favorites, and even a Handel aria Tuesday evening November 14 in “Music for the Mind: Mental Health Awareness Concert.”

The event in Ford Hall at the Whalen School of Music was the brainchild of Megan Jones, a junior voice student, who was inspired to “do something” after a fellow student and dorm mate attempted suicide earlier this year. The Ithaca College community quickly rallied to the cause.

“Nobody should feel as alone as my dear friend did, and I so strongly believe that music is a perfect way to bring attention, raise awareness, and comfort anyone around to hear it,” Megan told The Sophie Fund.

“Music for the Mind” was a tour de force showcasing IC’s exceptional instrumental, voice, and dance talent in nine musical pieces, including “Make Someone Happy,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Rise Up,” “Lascia Chio Pianga,” “Please Stay,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “You Will be Found.”

“A strength of the Ithaca College community is our care for one another,” Deborah Harper, director of IC’s Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, said in opening remarks to the audience. “What you are about to experience is one example of care in action. Music uplifts us, soothes us, inspires us, invites us to feel deeply. I would like to thank Megan for bringing her vision—’Music for the Mind’—to life tonight. As we spend the next hour together, I want to invite you to reflect on the value of our connections to life and to the people we hold dear. Open yourself to the music and allow your heart and mind to be moved.”

Before the curtain rose, Megan Jones introduced her friend Lola, who spoke eloquently and powerfully about her experience, and addressed others “who might be struggling right now”:

“This concert is for you. You might be used to being spoken around. For people to slightly touch the subject of your life, and just as quickly to draw back. For people to talk to the helpers instead of the people who need help.

“I am not you. Your symptoms are yours. You are your own person. But also you are not alone. All in all, you aren’t. You are a human in a world full of humans. You are not going crazy. You are suffering from an illness. You are living through it. You’re doing the best you can, and that really is enough. I don’t know you or what you are going through, but I know you can get through it. You’re strong, you’re trying, you’re alive, you’re here.

“Your disorder or illness is not just an excuse. You are more than enough. It may take a while to get out of this funk. It may just be something you deal with forever. But you will overall get better. You will learn to cope better. You will make friends. You will lose friends. It might be hard. You’ll continue to learn and you’ll continue to grow. One day, I truly think, the good days will start to outweigh the bad.

“Remember that people can’t know what you are going through until you tell them. That’s still something I’m trying to learn and get used to. You need to learn to take care of yourself at the end of the day.”

Click here to watch the “Music for the Mind” concert

Photos by Sarah Horbacewicz

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

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“Please Stay,” by Jake Runstad. Performed by the Ithaca College Choir, directed by Janet Galván, professor of performance studies.

 

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“Please Stay,” by Jake Runstad. Performed by the Ithaca College Choir, directed by Janet Galván, professor of performance studies.

 

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“You Will be Found,” from Dear Evan Hansen, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

 

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“Rise Up,” by Andra Day. Performed by Laurel Albinder and IC Voicestream.

 

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“My Oh My,” by Punch Brothers. Performed by Jonah Bobo, John Bourdelais, Tom Brody, Marybeth MacKay, and Nicky Young

 

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“You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from Carousel by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Performed by Deborah Montgomery-Cove, professor of performance studies.

 

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“Finding Hope,” by Ava Maria Safai. Performed by the IC Unbound Dance Company.

 

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“Lascia Chio Pianga,” from Rinaldo, by George Frideric Handel. Performed by Ivy Walz, associate professor of performance studies, with string quartet and dancers.

 

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“Lascia Chio Pianga,” from Rinaldo, by George Frideric Handel. Performed by Ivy Walz, associate professor of performance studies, with string quartet and dancers.

 

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“Make Someone Happy,” by Jule Styne. Performed by Marc Webster, assistant professor of performance studies, (with Megan Jones and Christopher Zemliauskas).

 

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“Make Someone Happy,” by Jule Styne. Performed by Megan Jones, IC voice student, (with Marc Webster and Christopher Zemliauskas).

Music for the Mind

On November 14 at Ithaca College’s Whalen School of Music, come join students, faculty, and community in the effort to raise awareness for mental health, spread resourceful information, and send a message of hope and inspiration.

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Click Here to Download the Poster

Last spring semester, I was in my dorm building when a floor-mate of mine needed a call to public safety due to self-harm and attempted suicide. Luckily, she got the help she needed, is back at school, and now one of my dear friends.

After being a part of that experience, I felt the need to do something about it. I came up with an idea of putting together a “Mental Health Awareness Concert.” I know very well that music has the power to bring people together, raise awareness, and comfort anyone around to hear it.

The Music for the Mind concert takes place Tuesday, November 14 at 8:15 p.m. in Ford Hall in Whalen School of Music. It will include performances from Marc Webster, Ivy Walz, and Patrice Pastore, Ithaca College Choir, Voicestream, ICUnbound, Rock Hard Dance Company, and many other IC students.

Prior to the concert, Ithaca College and local mental health organizations will set up in the lobby outside Ford Hall. Active Minds, Mental Health for Musicians, The Sophie Fund, and IC’s Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness will have tables with their representatives, goals, and information.

After the concert, in Hockett Green Room, everyone is invited for a panel discussion led by Active Minds, a representative from the IC Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, and a voice faculty representative. Audience members are welcome to listen to personal stories as well as share their own.

Concert attendees will be invited to consider donations to The Sophie Fund to support mental health initiatives aiding young people in the Ithaca area.

Our goal for this evening is to support and inspire. By addressing an issue at hand with care, helpful information, and music, we are unstoppable!

—By Megan Jones

Megan Jones is a voice major at Ithaca College

Even Polo Players Get the Blues

Cornell University’s Varsity Polo Team is an outstanding example of how each one of us can play a vital role in promoting mental health. For the fifth year in a row this Saturday, October 28, the team is playing a benefit match to raise awareness and collect donations for suicide prevention.

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The fitting tagline for this year’s benefit match is “Even Polo Players Get the Blues.” Members of the Cornell equestrian team created the annual event in memory of Sue Knight (’81), captain of Cornell championship teams in 1980 and 1981. Knight died by suicide after a long battle with depression in early January 2013 at age 53.

“This cause is especially important to Cornell polo team members both past and present as we lost a beloved former women’s team player and team captain far too soon,” said Anthony Condo, Jr., a Cornell volunteer coach. “In short, it is real close to home for so many of us.”

The benefit match is a day of weekend fun, with spectators taking in the match, watching a demonstration of polo skills, and meeting members of the Cornell team. The event starts at 2 p.m. at the John T. Oxley Equestrian Center in Ithaca. Parking and admission are free.

Donations collected will be directed to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national organization devoted to new research, educational programs, advocacy for public policy, and supporting survivors of suicide loss.

Click here to make a donation to AFSP anytime.

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

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Caption: Cornell polo coaches and team members celebrating an Amateur Cup victory, August 2017.

Cornell Fraternity Serves the Ithaca Community

“Service” is a word bursting with meaning for the Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter Service Team, as we have learned first-hand here at The Sophie Fund.

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A little more than a year ago, we decided to organize a cupcake baking contest in the Ithaca Commons. Our idea was to raise some money for mental health initiatives, bring some cupcake joy to Ithaca, and fight the stigma around mental health and treatment. Sophie (’14) was an avid baker and loved baking cupcakes from an early age.

An APO brother came across some publicity for the contest and quickly contacted us. She said she would encourage APO Gamma brothers to bake some cupcakes, but she also wanted to know “if there was any way our brothers could help out.”

Our answer was “Yes!” The truth was that we had thrown the contest together at the last minute, and we desperately needed help with logistics on event day. APO Gamma dispatched a dozen or so brothers to the Bernie Milton Pavilion who helped with everything from registering scores of contestants, inventorying the cupcakes for panels of judges, preparing awards certificates for the winners, and mopping up the site afterwards. The flood of contestants was much more than we anticipated. The 1st Annual Cupcake Baking Contest was a big success.

APO Gamma, we couldn’t have done it without you!

In January, APO Gamma was ready to start talking about how they could support the 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest 10 months away. In numerous meetings at Starbucks downtown and at Willard Straight Hall on campus (not to mention countless emails), APO Gamma helped us design a sequel that included a fun fundraising element—collecting donations for mental health initiatives and giving donors “cupcake buttons” in return.

Starting in late September, APO Gamma squads fanned out to Ho Plaza, GreenStar Natural Foods Market, and the Apple Harvest Festival to advocate for mental health, take donations for this year’s cause—suicide prevention—and promote the cupcake contest to be held in the Commons on October 14. APO Gamma raised more than $500, well above our expectations.

More important, the brothers’ presence on campus and in the community generated further awareness and prompted conversations that make a difference and could save a life. We know from Sophie’s experience with depression and anxiety, which led her to take a health leave of absence only six months away from graduation, how important it is to know that there is help, that people care.

At The Sophie Fund, we are overwhelmed not only by APO Gamma’s aid with fundraising and contest logistics, but by the heart that the brothers put into their service to the community. We know that APO Gamma is involved around the clock in so many other projects supporting mental health. It is truly something to admire.

We’re expecting a larger turnout for the 2017 cupcake contest. Once again, it wouldn’t happen without APO Gamma.

(Editor’s Note: This blog post written by The Sophie Fund originally appeared October 10, 2017 on the Service Blog of Alpha Phi Omega—Gamma Chapter)

Photo Caption: APO Gamma brothers volunteering for the 2016 Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest

The Ithacan on College Health Leaves of Absence

“Kids on medical leave from the three universities often fall through the cracks.” —David Shapiro, President and CEO of Family and Children’s Service.

Bianca Mestiza of The Ithacan, Ithaca College’s student newspaper, has a comprehensive piece in the latest edition on The Sophie Fund’s proposal to aid students on mental health leaves of absence.

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Excerpts from the article below, but see the whole piece at The Ithacan:

The Sophie Fund, an organization whose focus is to enhance mental health initiatives, released a proposal Aug. 21 aimed to support students who take leaves of absences for mental health reasons from local universities such as Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College.

The proposal seeks to create an Ithaca community–based program to help college students who on are on mental health leaves of absence. In order to have a successful transition away from college, students need help before, during and after they return from their leave to adjust back to the demand of their academic work, according to the proposal.

The program features a “life coach” who would be a professional in the community employed by a local mental health agency. The life coach would help the students stay connected by holding individual and group meetings. In addition, The Sophie Fund’s website would help the student by giving useful information about local housing options and employment opportunities.

[Scott MacLeod, Sophie’s father and co-founder of The Sophie Fund] said the proposal has been shared with local stakeholders, agencies and campus organizations such as the Active Minds chapter at the college and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.

Deborah Harper, director of Ithaca College’s Center for Counseling and Wellness, said in an email that the proposal is a good idea because it benefits students who stay in the area while they are on leave.

MacLeod said that taking a leave of absence can be a very disrupting time for students who make that decision.

“This can be a very disruptive phase in a young person’s life when they have gone off to college … and suddenly they find themselves out a campus … so we have developed a project proposal to provide support to students who take a leave of absence,” he said.

Norbert McCloskey, executive director of the Ithaca Health Alliance, said he thinks the proposal is a good idea, and that he would like to see Cornell University and Ithaca College support it.

“I would like to see both the colleges here in town actually implement the proposal if they can find the means to do that,” McCloskey said.

David Shapiro, president and CEO of Family and Children’s Service, said via email that he is pleased with the proposal and appreciates MacLeod’s efforts to provide services to students who are having a difficult time.

“Kids on medical leave from the three universities often fall through the cracks,” Shapiro said. “I applaud Scott’s efforts to think of a solution to support these vulnerable students.

S. Makai Andrews, co-president of the Active Minds chapter at the college, said the campus should work on providing better assistance to students who take a leave of absence.

“I think that colleges should be better at facilitating the process, whether someone is on leave for their mental health, physical health or other personal reasons,” Andrews said. “The idea of a leave of absence is terrifying to most students because graduating ‘on time’ puts heavy pressure on much of the student body.”

Sophomore Jeewon Yim took a mental health leave of absence for a year after her freshman year and returned home to South Korea during her leave.

“I was mostly depressed about staying in a rural place, “Yim said. “On top of that, I was struggling to figure out what I really wanted to study… These reasons all came up to me as a really big emotional pressure, so I thought I should take a year off and see how my feelings change.”

Yim said she would like to see the campus community reach out to students more to see how they are feeling.

“I think the point is to encourage students and give them confidence that it is OK to ask for help,” she said.

Harper said that CAPS does outreach to students to let them know about their services. They meet with families of incoming students to encourage them to seek support from CAPS, if needed.

MacLeod said he hopes more organizations get involved with the proposal and that students provide input since they will be the ones who will need support.

McCloskey said the community support can help students taking leaves of absence.

“If we can help folks deal with that early on, their quality of life improves, their chances of success in college improves and their long–term success in life will improve,” McCloskey said. “I would like to see [the proposal] move forward and adopted, and I hope that does, indeed, become the case.”