Media & Mental Health: Our Words Matter

The Kennedy Forum’s annual meeting October 6 & 13 presents “Our Words Matter: Harnessing the Power of Communications to Advance Mental Health Equity.” The online event features leaders in communications, media, advocacy, and activism to discussing best practices and defining a clear path forward. The meeting will feature remarks from Patrick Kennedy, former congressman and founder of The Kennedy Forum; Representatives John M. Katko and Grace Napolitano, co-chairs of the congressional mental health caucus; and Senator Dick Durban.

Click here to register and attend “Our Words Matter”

From the The Kennedy Forum:

“Today’s society is hindered by an unconscious, implicit bias that fuels discrimination against those living with mental health and substance use disorders. Our words often reflect that bias, perpetuating negative stereotypes. Thus, the urgent need for more thoughtful, accurate communications about mental health and addiction that will open minds, connect communities, and empower policymakers. Now, more than ever, we must take steps to understand, nurture, and advance the role of communications in the fight for mental health equity. Normalizing a national conversation is key to lasting change.”

Program highlights October 6:

“Our Digital Reckoning: A Deep-Dive into the Past & Present of Mental Health in the Media”

For the first time in history, we’re seeing conversations about mental health dominate headlines, traditional journalism, celebrity news, hit songs, and Instagram posts. Media trailblazers, clinical experts, and activists come together to set the stage for the day: What got us to this critical moment, and what are the implications of finally pulling the realities of mental illness and substance use out of the shadows and into our headlines?

  • Kate Snow, Senior National Correspondent & Anchor, NBC News
  • Kari Cobham, Senior Associate Director, The Carter Center’s Rosalynn Carter Fellowships
  • Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director, The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
  • Mark Ishaug, CEO, Thresholds

“Generation Push Notification: The Impact of Ever-present Tech on our Mental Wellbeing”

We are well into the age of the 24-hour news cycle. Information constantly surrounds us. We no longer have to seek out news and media; instead tech companies continually feed us through sophisticated algorithms. Are these advancements creating efficiencies in our information consumption? Or is it creating a tech addiction and negatively impacting our mental health? This panel convenes experts from The Social Dilemma, a 2020 American docudrama film that provides a deep dive into how social media’s design is meant to nurture an addiction, manipulate individuals, and make us question the “truth.”

  • Dr. Anna Lembke, Chief, Stanford University Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic
  • Jonathan Haidt, Social Psychologist, New York University Stern School of Business
  • Renée DiResta, Technical Research Manager, Stanford Internet Observator
  • Eileen Guo, Senior Reporter for Tech Policy, Ethics, and Social Issues, MIT Technology Review

“Confronting Your Chaos and Using Your Platform for Change”

CNN’s Irish journalist, Donie O’Sullivan, earned praise for his reporting from the January 6th riot in Washington, DC and for his calm demeanor in the face of an angry crowd leading a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol building. But this measured reporter will also tell you that, “The most terrifying position I have been in in my life has been in my own mind in the grips of anxiety and depression.” This sincere discussion explores one reporter’s experience with mental health challenges and how he is using his platform as a high-profile journalist to engage others in honest, and sometimes difficult, conversations around mental health.

  • Donie O’Sullivan, Correspondent, CNN
  • Rhitu Chatterjee, Health Correspondent, NPR

“Gaming the System: An Influencer’s Approach to Promoting Mental Health Care”

By 2022, the online gaming market is expected to take in $196 billion in revenue, more than box office and recorded music revenues combined. Currently, there are over 2 billion gamers worldwide who seek out platforms such as Twitch and Caffeine to live stream their favorite gameplay. One influencer is using this platform to reach young people and discuss real life issues including mental health care and substance use.

  • She Snaps, Online Broadcaster, Podcaster and Mental Health Advocate
  • Ryan Jenkins, Anchor / Reporter, TMJ4 NBC Milwaukee

“The Weight of Gold: The Pursuit of Olympic Dreams and the Fallout”

Olympics athletes train for most of their lives for an opportunity on the world’s biggest athletic stage. When it’s over, many athletes face mental health challenges. Hear from Brett Rapkin, Director of the HBO Sports documentary The Weight of Gold, on the process and importance of sharing the mental health stories of Michael Phelps, Apolo Ohno, Shaun White, Lolo Jones, and others. Learn how the documentary inspired discussion about mental health issues, encouraged people to seek help, and highlighted the need for support.

  • Brett Rapkin, CEO & Founder, Podium Pictures
  • Jeremy Bloom, 3-time World Champion / 2-time Olympic Skier

Program highlights October 13:

“Barrier-Free Care: How the Digital Era Harnesses Online Communities and Accessibility to End Mental Health Stigma”

Technology has broadened our ability to engage individuals in wellness and mental health care. More and more, people are turning to apps, social media, podcasts, and more to learn and explore their own self-care. We talk to three leaders in the field who are breaking down traditional barriers in an effort to heal others.

  • Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Licensed Psychologist, Author, Therapy for Black Girls
  • Jennifer Libby, Founder & CEO, Promly
  • Aidan Kohn-Murphy, Founder & CEO, Gen-Z For Change
  • Michael Puente, Reporter, WBEZ Chicago

“Separating Raven From The Hulk: One Olympian’s Story About Strength In All Forms”

Raven Saunders is a silver medalist in shot put at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In her life, she won three NCAA collegiate titles in the shot put for the University of Mississippi, was a world junior medalist in 2014, and the Pan American junior champion in 2015. She holds a personal record of 19.96 m for the shot put. Raven is also a fierce advocate for mental health due to her own personal challenges and triumphs. She shares her story with NBC journalist, Char Adams, who helped to bring her into the media spotlight.

  • Raven Saunders, Olympic Silver Medalist
  • LZ Granderson, OpEd Columnist, The Los Angeles Times

“Speaking Your Truth: Courage and Authenticity in the Face of Online (and offline) Mental Health Stigma”

Join this intimate conversation with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Andy Cohen, Emmy Award-winning host, producer, and author best known as the host and executive producer of the Emmy-Nominated “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” on Bravo. Throughout his career – spanning from network journalism, authoring bestselling books, hosting talk shows, and touring with Anderson Cooper – Andy has been exposed to many sides of the media and its impact on our popular culture. In this session, Andy will share his personal experiences in the field and offer perspective on how we can utilize media to change the conversation around mental health.​

  • Andy Cohen, Host & Executive Producer, “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen”
  • Patrick J. Kennedy, Former Congressman (D-RI), Founder of The Kennedy Forum

“MindSite News: Shining A Light On Mental Health”

MindSite News is a new, editorially independent, digital publication focused on mental health, resilience and recovery. This new platform intends to translate science into accessible English and be written in a way that is powerful, authoritative, and engaging to both experts and the lay public. To shed more light on MindSite itself, James Burns, Interim Executive Director of The Kennedy Forum Illinois will sit down with Rob Waters, Founding Editor of MindSite News, to discuss this new platform and how it came to be. They will dive into details around editorial content curation and the distribution channels for this content, as well as how people can actively engage and contribute to this new, and important resource for the mental health community.

  • Rob Waters, Founding Editor, MindSite News
  • James Burns, Interim Executive Director, Illinois, The Kennedy Forum

“Our Words Matter: The Role of Journalists in Creating Safe, Human-centered Stories about Mental Health”

Although stereotypes and misperceptions regarding mental health and substance use disorders are pervasive, journalists can play an influential role in educating and informing the public about these public health issues and reduce the prevalence of sensationalized inaccurate information that fuels stigma and discrimination. Join this powerful discussion to learn how to promote responsible and fair communications in our media.

  • Dr. Steven Adelsheim, Clinical Professor, Director, Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • John Daniszewski, Vice President and Editor at Large for Standards, The Associated Press
  • Scott MacLeod, Co-Founder and President, The Sophie Fund
  • Christine Herman, Reporter, Illinois Public Media

Support The Learning Web of Ithaca!

Welcome to The Sophie Fund’s 2021 Cupcake Button fundraiser! Each October, we work alongside student organizations to raise monies for a local nonprofit focused on community wellbeing.

Members of The Learning Web’s Volunteer Community Service Program help the Family Reading Partnership prepare books to be given to local kids

This year the campaign is collecting funds for The Learning Web, an Ithaca agency offering experiential learning, youth employment, and independent living programs to youth and young adults in Tompkins County. 

One hundred percent of monies raised will go to The Learning Web and specifically to its Supporting Strong Families project. The project helps youth with children learn new skills, acquire childcare equipment and supplies, and access needed resources.   

Click here to DONATE via GoFundMe

The Learning Web strives to support local youth—from the homeless to the more fortunate—to make the transition to adulthood successfully, finish high school, develop a productive career path leading to gainful employment and self-sufficiency, and contribute in a healthy and positive way to better the greater Ithaca community.

Every year The Learning Web helps 600 youth, 200 of whom are homeless, through a variety of programs. Services are provided to ensure safe housing, assist education and training opportunities, develop career pathways through apprenticeships and employment, and help with parenting skills for young parents.

For more information about The Learning Web, go to:

This year’s fundraising campaign is supported by many student organizations, including Cornell University’s Cornell Minds Matter, Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter, Reflect at Cornell, Phi Sigma Pi, Pre-Professional Association Toward Careers in Health (PATCH), and Cornell Circle K; and Ithaca College’s IC Strike.

Students will raise money through in-person activities (and provide donors with Cupcake Buttons) and through online collections via GoFundMe.

The symbol of the campaign is a Cupcake Button, because the fundraising takes place in the run-up to the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest hosted by The Sophie Fund. To enter this year’s cupcake contest, go to:

2021 Cupcake Button (detail from Evolution, a painting by Sophie Hack MacLeod)

For more information about The Sophie Fund, go to:

A Cornell Mental Health Resources Guide

When I started my first year at Cornell University, I experienced imposter syndrome and overwhelming feelings of depression and anxiety. I questioned whether I belonged at an Ivy League school and had doubts about whether I could be successful on my own. I began having a negative view about myself and my capabilities, started self-isolating, and worked to attain a level of perfection that isn’t possible in my classes.

Memorial Room, Willard Straight Hall, Cornell University

While I was going through all this, I realized I never heard or had any information about the groups and initiatives on campus that were directed toward addressing student mental health. I believe that I could have benefited from them when I felt so alone.

It is essential that incoming students have this indispensable information if they ever need support or a community to turn to if they are struggling. Turning to someone who understands or even talking to someone while you’re dealing with a hardship makes a big difference. Getting out of your own head gives you perspective about what you’re going through and how you perceive the situation. You are never alone. Your struggles and vulnerabilities do not make you weak. Sharing makes you stronger and more connected with others.

One in an occasional series of articles about student mental health. For more information, go to The Sophie Fund’s Student Mental Health Page

My experience, and then learning about the deaths of Cornell students earlier this year, motivated me to create the Cornell Mental Health Resources Guide to empower incoming and current students to find and ask for emotional support when they need it—whether they’re going through a crisis or need someone to talk to. The transition to college is very difficult. It’s important more than ever, given the Covid-19 pandemic, that new students know that they are supported and that there are communities of students that are here to support them and have their own experiences related to dealing with mental health and negative body image.

Through this guide, I hope to inform students about where they can find support and the kinds of resources and communities that exist on campus to address their personal, mental health, academic, and/or spiritual needs. I want to further the idea that asking for help is a strength and challenge the societal belief that emotions should be pushed aside.

DOWNLOAD: Cornell Mental Health Resources Guide 2021-22

Mental health should be a number one priority. Many students buy into a hustle culture in college that encourages you to struggle and put yourself last, but your wellbeing should reside in the center of everything you do. Taking care of yourself allows you to feel better about yourself, put struggles into perspective and see challenges objectively, be less tired and stressed, focus and perform better in your academics, be a better friend, be present, etc. Only by taking care of yourself can you show up as who you truly are. Investing time in relationships is also important as human connection makes us happier.

Over the summer, I distributed my work to more than 800 organizations, professors, and departments on campus. It was sponsored by student organizations working to address mental health on campus including Cornell Minds Matter, EARS, Reflect at Cornell, and Body Positive Cornell. It was shared with freshmen through Cornell’s new student orientation, the Tatkon Center, Cornell residential housing, Cornell athletics sports teams, and students coming back from health leaves of absence. It has also been shared by some professors in their course syllabi.

In receiving a lot of positive responses from the Cornell community, I’ve been able to see that there are many people who care about student wellbeing at Cornell and want the best experience for every student. Together, we can work to make Cornell an even better campus and environment for students to grow and thrive.

—By Katie Gorton

Katie Gorton is a sophomore at Cornell University hoping to study Communications.

DOWNLOAD: Cornell Mental Health Resources Guide 2021-22

Yes! It’s the 6th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest!

The world is excited to see what Ithaca’s amateur bakers come up with in 2021!

The judges are still feeling deliciously gobsmacked by last year’s entries. Who can forget the Hidden Treasure or Kahlua Me Crazy cupcakes? Or the Apple Cider or Banana Split or It’s Fall Y’all Apple Crisp cupcakes? Or the creations celebrating blue dogs, roosters, Baby Yoda, and Wewe Bears? As Halloween neared, even Frankenstein came out of an oven and made an appearance.

With an abundance of caution and concern for everyone’s health amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 contest will again be held entirely online.

Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and to download a registration form.

Contestants of all ages are invited and will be eligible for dozens of prizes including a Grand Prize valued at $250. (Open to amateur bakers only.)

To enter, you will bake and decorate cupcakes, of course. The judges are anticipating the sweet and spicy bouquets coming from your stoves!

Then you’ll take photos of your masterpieces and email them along with a brief description and your recipe to The Sophie Fund.

You will also tell us a brief story about your cupcakes—perhaps a person, place, or thing that inspired your recipe and decoration. Or what special techniques you used. Or what fun you had baking them. Or what challenges you had to overcome making your cupcake dream a reality.

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm on Saturday October 16.

Entries will then be judged by professionals from Ithaca’s bakeries and restaurants. Judging is based on decoration, originality, and the story about the cupcake.

Judges will announce finalists and choose winners during an Online Live Event on Saturday October 23. The Sophie Fund will notify the winners and mail prizes to them. The names of winners will also be announced on

Additional Prizes:

Teens and Pre-Teens: A $100 gift certificate redeemable at dozens of downtown Ithaca shops will be presented with this year’s Youth Award!

Movie Makers: All contestants MUST submit photos and a story, but you can ALSO make a short movie about your cupcakes to win a separate $100 Video Award prize!

The 6th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by GreenStar Food Co+op, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and Well Said Media.

The contest is organized every year by The Sophie Fund, which was established in 2016 in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to support mental health initiatives aiding young people.

Sophie’s passion for baking cupcakes inspired the launch of the first Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest in 2016. At the time of her death by suicide at age 23, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.

ReEntry Theatre Explores Mental Health and Criminal Justice

Delia Divided is a new play by Judy Tate exploring mental health in the criminal justice system and beyond and written with the collaboration of formerly incarcerated individuals in the Civic Ensemble‘s ReEntry Theatre Program.

Members of the ReEntry Theatre Program

Gabriella da Silva Carr will direct a staged reading of the play by the ReEntry Theatre members via Zoom on June 12 and June 13. There will be a post-reading dialogue with audience members. Click here for the Civic Ensemble Ticket Office (Delia Divided tickets on pay-what-you-can basis). The Sophie Fund is a co-sponsor of the event.

The ReEntry Theatre Program creates original theater that highlights and investigates the complexity of real human stories. It is a supportive, creative community for people who have experienced incarceration or court involvement, and aims to raise awareness about and shift the narrative around the realities of the criminal justice system and the people involved. This program is led by a Leadership Council of nine formerly incarcerated individuals who recruit, mentor, and participate alongside new participants.

Judy Tate is Producing Artistic Director of The American Slavery Project, a theatrical response to revisionism in this country’s dialogue about enslavement and its aftermath. She is also the Founding Artistic Director of the Stargate Theater at the Manhattan Theater Club in New York. She is a four-time Emmy Award winning writer and Writer’s Guild of America award recipient.

The ReEntry Theatre Program is an ongoing weekly program. Participation is free and everyone who has experienced incarceration in jails, prisons, or drug rehabilitation programs is welcome to attend. Participants work with theater professionals from Civic Ensemble to grow theater skills, develop scenes and plays based on the ideas each individual brings, and build community. No theater experience necessary. Email or call/text 607-241-0195 to receive the link to join.