Student organizations are fanning out across Ithaca to support this year’s “Cupcake Button Fundraising Campaign” organized by The Sophie Fund, which will hand over all donations to the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.
Students will be tabling at GreenStar Natural Foods Market, on college campuses, and other locations around town, collecting donations in exchange for a colorful button featuring a painting of a cupcake. The campaign is held in conjunction with the annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest, which will be held in the Ithaca Commons on Saturday, October 19.
“We are honored to designate the Advocacy Center as the recipient for this year’s Cupcake Button Fundraising Campaign,” said Scott MacLeod, a co-founder of The Sophie Fund. “The Advocacy Center does incredibly valuable work in our community, fighting sexual assault and domestic violence and providing essential support to victims of abuse.”
Last year’s cupcake button campaign raised $1,367.50, which was given to the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County.
Student groups participating in the 2019 campaign include:
—Active Minds at Ithaca College
—Active Minds at Ithaca High School
—Cornell University student organizations: Cornell Minds Matter; Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter; Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity; PATCH (Pre-Professional Association Towards Careers in Health); and the Mortar Board Der Hexenkreis senior honor society
Image caption: Detail from Evolution (2009), a painting by Sophie Hack MacLeod
Is mental illness behind the mass shootings that occur in America—251 in the past 216 days? President Trump and leading Republicans are blaming mental illness in the aftermath of the latest killings, in El Paso and Dayton. Professional psychologists say mental illness is not the problem, guns, racism, intolerance, and bigotry are. Blaming mental illness for violence dangerously reinforces the stigma around mental illness, making it less likely that those who need treatment will receive treatment.
March for Our Lives protest, Los Angeles, March 24, 2016
“These are people that are very, very seriously mentally ill,” Trump said of the mass shootings. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, also a Republican, said in El Paso after the Walmart massacre there: “Mental health is a large contributor to any type of violence or shooting violence.”
Rosie Phillips Davis, president of the American Psychological Association, immediately pushed back against the blame in a statement on Sunday.
“Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing,” she said. “Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.”
More from the APA president’s statement:
“Our condolences are with the families and friends of those killed or injured in these horrific shootings and with all Americans affected every day by the twin horrors of hate and gun violence.
“As our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting.
“That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, as it should be. Psychological science has demonstrated the damage that racism can inflict on its targets. Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts and avoidance behaviors.
“If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue.”
Here are perspectives from a 2016 interview with Liza Gold, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University and editor of Gun Violence and Mental Illness:
“Most serious mental illness is only weakly associated with violence of any kind—and with gun violence in particular. Most people with serious mental illness are not violent; most people who are violent do not have serious mental illness. Individuals with mental illness are responsible for about 3 percent to 5 percent of all types of violence in the U.S.—when they do become violent, they are most likely to assault family members or commit suicide.
“Firearm violence committed by individuals with serious mental illness against strangers is one of the rarest forms of gun violence in the US. Of the approximately 33,000 firearm deaths each year, two-thirds are suicides. Less than 1 percent of all firearm deaths in the US occur in the context of mass shootings by individuals, with or without mental illness. So unless the media and politicians are talking about suicide deaths by firearms—which they never are—they are simply perpetuating negative stereotypes and stigma associated with mental illness.
“The thinking goes like this: only someone who is crazy would commit such a horrible act and kill innocent people. We all know that crazy people are dangerous and violent; therefore, it must be people with mental illness who are behind these horrible acts. However, mass shootings are not invariably associated with people who have acute mental illness or a history of mental illness. Some do, but some don’t.
“Improved funding and resources for mental health systems and treatment would of course be welcomed. However, the repeated calls to “improve the mental health system” heard after mass shootings do not result in increased spending or funding. They merely serve as a politically expedient method to avoid talking about instituting sensible firearm regulation.”
Gold says the refrain to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill does a disservice to American society:
It reinforces the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with mental illness, making it less likely that those who need treatment will receive treatment.
It does not result in improved funding of or access to mental health treatment.
It allows politicians and media to avoid discussing sensible gun regulations.
Because no effective change results, the American people have come to believe that “nothing can be done” to stop the high toll of gun violence, despite the fact that we are the only country in the world with this kind of civilian gun violence problem.
The APA points to a variety of resources for people who are suffering distress in the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton:
“We, the youth of the United States, have built a new movement to denounce gun violence and call for safety in all of our communities. And this is only the beginning.” — Parkland school shooting survivor and activist Emma González.
At a time of broken leadership in America, and on so many levels, it is truly stirring to witness the #neveragain movement led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida along with legions of other young Americans.
They’re smart, eloquent, poised, and committed. And they’re determined to act and get results. The focus is on gun control, but this is a movement that will do much more to make the world a safer, better place.
Millions will take part in the historic March For Our Lives on Saturday March 24 in Washington and across the country. Ithaca’s march culminates with a rally in the Commons at 2 p.m.
Emma González is probably right—this is only the beginning. Here’s an extract of the powerful essay she wrote for Teen Vogue this week:
I was born in 1999, just a few months after 13 people were left dead after a shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. From 1966 to the Valentine’s Day that my school proved to be less than bulletproof, nearly 1,100 people have been killed in mass public shootings in the U.S.. From the deaths of 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, to the 2016 massacre of mostly Latinx people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, to the loss of 58 lives at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas last year, we’ve seen mass shootings play out again and again and again.
Gun violence has torn up many communities across the country, mainly due to negligence on behalf of local and national government to properly regulate access to guns, ignorance to their constituents’ varying situations, and willingness to take money from organizations that very clearly do not have the best intentions for the future of the United States.
We Stoneman Douglas students may have woken up only recently from our sheltered lives to fight this fight, but we stand in solidarity with those who have struggled before us, and we will fight alongside them moving forward to enact change and make life survivable for all young people. People who have been fighting for this for too long, others who were never comfortable enough to openly talk about their experiences with gun violence, or still others who were never listened to when opening up about their experiences with gun violence or were afraid to speak out — these are the people we are fighting with and for.
González and fellow Parkland activists made the cover of TIME magazine this week. “The young voices of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have changed minds and even laws,” writesTIME.
Nothing better illustrates America’s abysmal failure to address the persistent public health crisis of mass shootings than the empty proposals put forth by the nation’s president in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day.
President Trump meeting with students, parents, and teachers at the White House
Arm our teachers, President Trump tweeted. Put an end to “gun free” schools and make them “hardened targets” instead. Arming teachers has been an idea pushed by the National Rifle Association, which donated $11 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign, since the killing of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
Responding to the Florida shooting, in which a 19-year-old former student killed 17 children and adults with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Trump repeatedly blamed “sicko” and “maniac” individuals for school shootings. He said he supported implementing comprehensive background checks “with an emphasis on mental health”; raising the gun-purchasing age to 21; ending sales of “bump stocks” that enable automatic fire; and arming “weapons talented teachers.”
Trump tweeted on February 22: “If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved.” In another tweet, Trump said: “A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people.” He proposed that armed teachers be given a pay bonus for their additional service.
Trump’s proposal to arm teachers—along with his accompanying insinuation that mental illness rather than lax gun control is the prime cause of school shootings—triggered an outcry from leading educational groups and medical associations. A summary of statements reacting to the Parkland shootings and Trump’s comments:
“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms. Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff.
“Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.
“We owe it to the students and school personnel, who’ve lost their lives at schools and on campuses across the country, to work together so that we can thoughtfully and carefully develop common sense solutions that really will save lives.”
“Subsequent to the Sandy Hook shooting, the AASA Governing Board in July 2013 adopted a Position Paper on School Safety that says: ‘If we hope to prevent future tragedies at schools, we must comprehensively address both school safety and gun safety. Increased mental health services, community supports for youth, and new attitudes about violence in our entertainment must all be part of this approach. We must be willing to spend the time and resources necessary to make sustainable changes. AASA hopes that school leaders find ways of enhancing their current school safety procedures as outlined above, but we know federal funding is critical to ensuring schools remain the safest place for children to be.’
“The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) strongly opposes arming teachers as a strategy for preventing gun violence on school grounds. NASP joins virtually every other organization representing school and safety professionals in recognizing that arming school staff is wrong. Doing so places an unrealistic, unreasonable burden on America’s educators, has the potential to cause more harm from unintentional or inaccurate discharge of firearms, and can undermine the sense of safe, supportive learning environments.
“Equally important, the time and costs associated with training and arming school staff diverts critical human and financial resources away from strategies known to help decrease violent behaviors such as improved access to mental health services, effective threat assessment practices, properly trained school crisis response teams, and creating welcoming, inclusive school communities for all students.
“We need laws and policies that keep guns out of the hands of those who would hurt themselves or others and limit access to weapons intended to cause mass destruction in a short amount of time.
“Our nation must focus on the approaches that genuinely safeguard the well-being of our children and the school staff who work to educate, empower, and protect them every day. Putting more guns in schools is not one of those approaches.”
“NASRO strongly recommends that no firearms be on a school campus except those carried by carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers (SROs), who are career law enforcement officers with sworn authority, deployed by employing police departments or agencies in community-oriented policing assignments to work in collaboration with schools.
“There are several reasons for this recommendation:
—Law enforcement officers who respond to an incident at a school could mistake for an assailant a teacher or any other armed person who is not in a uniform.
—Anyone who hasn’t received the extensive training provided to law enforcement officers will likely be mentally unprepared to take a life, especially the life of a student assailant.
—Firearm skills degrade quickly, which is why most law enforcement agencies require their officers to practice on a shooting range frequently (as often as once per month), under simulated, high-stress conditions. Anyone without such frequent, ongoing practice will likely have difficulty using a firearm safely and effectively.
—In addition to maintaining marksmanship, ongoing firearms practice helps law enforcement officers overcome the physiological response to stress than can reduce the fine motor skills required to accurately fire a weapon.
—Anyone who possesses a firearm on campus must be able to keep it both ready for use and absolutely secure. Law enforcement officers receive training that enables them to overcome attempts to access their weapons.
—Discharging a firearm in a crowded school is an extremely risky action, with consequences that can include the wounding and/or death of innocent victims. Law enforcement officers receive training and practice in evaluating quickly the risks of firing. They hold their fire when the risks to others are too high.”
“This senseless loss of life has become all too common in our country, ending lives, shattering families and disrupting the fabric of another community forever branded by this act of violence.
“Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is growing in frequency and lethality, and it is taking a toll on our patients. We urge our national leaders to recognize in this moment what the medical community has long understood: we must treat this epidemic no differently than we would any other pervasive threat to public health. We must identify the causes and take evidence-based approaches to prevent future suffering.
“Today, our organizations call on the President and the United States Congress to help prevent gun violence in the following ways:
—Label this violence caused by the use of guns a national public health epidemic.
—Fund appropriate research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the FY 2018 omnibus spending package.
—Establish constitutionally appropriate restrictions on the manufacturing and sale, for civilian use, of large-capacity magazines and firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity.”
“While law enforcement is still piecing together the shooter’s motives, some public figures and news reports are focusing on his mental health. It is important to remember that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. Framing the conversation about gun violence in the context of mental illness does a disservice to the victims of violence and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness. More important, it does not direct us to appropriate solutions to this public health crisis.”