It’s Mental Health Awareness Month!

“Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, daily functioning, and ability to relate to others. Mental illness doesn’t develop because of a person’s character or intelligence. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, a mental illness is a disorder of the brain that can make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life. No one is to blame—not the person, and not the family.”

So begins “Navigating a Mental Health Crisis,” a new resource guide for to help those experiencing a mental health emergency, published just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Click here to download the guide

The guide includes sections explaining:

—How to understand mental health crises

—How to prepare for a crisis

—What to do during a crisis

—What to do following a crisis

—How to create a crisis plan

The guide is published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As NAMI explains:

When mental illness is present, the potential for crisis is never far from mind. Crisis episodes related to mental illness can feel incredibly overwhelming. There’s the initial shock, followed by a flood of questions—the most prominent of which is: “What can we do?”

People experiencing mental illness—and the people who care for them—need information. However, that information is not always readily available and the search for answers may require more energy and persistence than possible in times of crisis.

“Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency” provides important, potentially life-saving information for people experiencing mental health crises and their loved ones. This guide outlines what can contribute to a crisis, warning signs that a crisis is emerging, strategies to help de-escalate a crisis, available resources and so much more.

Like any other health crisis, it’s important to address a mental health emergency quickly and effectively. With mental health conditions, crises can be difficult to predict because, often, there are no warning signs. Crises can occur even when treatment plans have been followed and mental health professionals are involved. Unfortunately, unpredictability is the nature of mental illness.

Unlike other health emergencies, people experiencing mental health crises often don’t receive instructions or materials on what to expect after the crisis. That is why we created this guide, so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it.

Click here to find more information about NAMI

Click here to connect with NAMI-Finger Lakes chapter

Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca is hosting two special events during Mental Health Awareness Month.

On Thursday May 17 at 7:30 a.m. the organization will hold its annual breakfast celebration at the Country Club of Ithaca, 189 Pleasant Grove Road. The event will honor Lynette Scofield, Claudia Brenner, Sandy True, and the Cayuga at Twilight Committee. Tickets are available for $25 via Eventbrite. Support a great local mental health organization.

On Thursday May 31, F&CS hosts a community screening of The Mask You Live In, a film directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom that follows a diverse group of boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. The screening to be followed by a panel discussion takes place at Cinemapolis, 120 East Green Street, from 6-9 p.m. Reserve seats at the Cinempolis website.

Watch the trailer!

Saying “The S Word” at Cornell

The uncomfortable topic of suicide was the main theme of a four-day-long “Mental Health Weekend” organized by the student mental health advocacy group Cornell Minds Matter. As part of its effort to encourage open discussion about suicide and to destigmatize mental disorders, the group hosted a screening for the Ithaca community Sunday evening of The S Word, a new award-winning documentary by director Lisa Klein. The event was sponsored by The Sophie Fund.

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Reba McCutcheon, Cornell University associate dean of students; Garra Lloyd-Lester, director, New York State Suicide Prevention Community Initiatives; Lisa Klein, director of The S Word; Kelechi Ubozoh, mental health activist; and Cooper Walter, president of Cornell Minds Matter

The film follows the remarkable journey of suicide attempt survivor Dese’Rae L. Stage as she “documents the stories of courage, insight, and humor of fellow survivors.” Klein was on hand to personally present the film on the Cornell University campus, and, along with one of those survivors, Kelechi Ubozoh, took part in a panel discussion immediately following the screening. They were joined by Garra Lloyd-Lester, director of the New York State Suicide Prevention Community Initiatives.

Klein is a survivor of both her father’s and brother’s suicides. She has struggled with the “whys” for years, along with the guilt, shame, and confusion that lingers in suicide’s wake. She made The S Word to spur more open conversations about suicide.

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Watching The S Word at the Biotechnology Building conference room Sunday evening

“Tragically, 1,100 college students die each year by suicide, making suicide one of the leading causes of death among college students and young people generally,” said Cornell Minds Matter President Cooper Walter. “We hosted The S Word to increase the awareness and understanding of suicide. By expanding the conversation, we hope to contribute to the growing Zero Suicide initiative in Tompkins County.”

Other Mental Health Weekend events included a Speak Your Mind student panel in partnership with Active Minds at Ithaca College, where students could share their personal stories about suicide. On Saturday evening, the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service of Ithaca hosted Dancing for Life, its 6th annual fundraiser for the local crisisline that provides 24/7 support for people in crisis.

The Sophie Fund is a nonprofit organization advocating for improved mental health policies and practices in Tompkins County. It was established by the family of Sophie Hack MacLeod, a Cornell senior who took her own life in Ithaca in March 2016 while on a health leave of absence.

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Sophie Jones, a Cornell University student and volunteer with The Sophie Fund, at The S Word screening

(Photography by Sarah Horbacewicz/The Sophie Fund)

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Click here to read the Cornell Daily Sun‘s story on the screening of The S Word

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

 

Why Cornell Minds Matter

Mental Health Weekend is my last hurrah.

I joined Cornell Minds Matter, a student organization that promotes mental health at Cornell University, during the spring semester of my freshman year. My first year of college was rough. Academically, I managed fine. Mentally, I struggled to stay afloat.

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Cornell Minds Matter President Cooper Walter

The normal homesickness, imposter syndrome, and fish-out-of-water sensation that many teenagers experience when saying goodbye to their families and going away to college were hard enough. On top of this, my anxiety symptoms were worsening. The social anxiety disorder that I had been diagnosed with a few years before had been improving with cognitive behavioral therapy. But traveling across the country, from a small high school on a strip mall to a campus of almost twenty thousand, was almost too much.

I felt isolated. I didn’t go to the dining halls because sitting alone in a crowded room was unbearable. I tried supplementing my calorically insufficient diet with packages of Oreos that I would eat in one sitting, but I kept losing weight. Losing hope, I got an email about Club Fest, the big gathering of hundreds of campus clubs in Cornell’s field house. That’s where I discovered Cornell Minds Matter.

Cornell Minds Matter (CMM) is a student group that strives to promote the wellbeing of our campus, reduce the stigma of mental illness, and connect students to the many resources available. Headquartered in a room in the Dean of Students Office, Cornell Minds Matter hosts discussion series on mental health topics (such as Dining with Diverse Minds), de-stressing events (such as gratitude card writing and bamboo planting), free physical exercise activities (including yoga and Zumba), and dozens of other events.

When I approached Cornell Minds Matter’s table, the CMM members struck me with their generosity, passion, and compassion. I was immediately interested. Being pre-med, I wanted someday to help people with their health. In CMM, I could serve others and maybe, just maybe, even raise myself out of the morass I was in.

Over three years, starting out as a regular member, then becoming a program chair, then a vice president, and now, in my senior year, president of this amazing organization, I’ve tried my best to make Cornell a better place for all minds. I can’t thank Cornell Minds Matter enough for supporting me all these years as I’ve struggled—and, I’m grateful to say, largely overcome—my own mental illness.

I’m not alone in my battle. Twenty-five percent of college students experience a mental health disorder during their time at university. Yet, less than one-third seek help. Tragically, 1,100 college students die each year by suicide, making suicide one of the leading causes of death among college students and young people generally.

So, along with my incredible fellow CMM members, I’ve been organizing Cornell Minds Matter’s Mental Health Weekend to take place April 13–16. The Weekend’s main theme is suicide.

On Saturday, April 14, we’re hosting a Speak Your Mind student panel in partnership with Active Minds at Ithaca College, where students will share their personal stories about suicide.

On Saturday evening at Hotel Ithaca, the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service of Ithaca is hosting Dancing for Life, its 6th annual fundraiser for the local crisisline that provides 24/7 support for people in crisis.

On Sunday, April 15, through the support of The Sophie Fund, we are hosting a screening of the new documentary on suicide, The S Word. The film will be immediately followed by a Q&A panel discussion with director Lisa Klein, mental health activist Kelechi Ubozoh, and leader in the New York suicide prevention scene Garra Lloyd-Lester. Among the half dozen other events is a Mental Health Gala at the Johnson Museum on April 13.

We’ve put our hearts as well as our minds into Mental Health Weekend. As a graduating senior, it will be one of the last Cornell Minds Matter events I’ll help with. I hope you can make it.

—By Cooper Walter

Cooper Walter is the president of Cornell Minds Matter. A member of the Class of 2018, he studies human biology, health, and society in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University.

 

High School Warriors Against Suicide

“The truth is, we all struggle. We need you. Together, we rise.” — Arlee Warriors.

Can we prevent suicide? The Arlee Warriors high school basketball team thinks so.

In Montana, which records the highest suicide rate in the United States, the Arlee players dedicated this month’s statewide high school basketball tournament to suicide prevention. To spur their cause, the Warriors made a moving video sending support to people struggling with thoughts of hopelessness and encouraging others to fight for them.

The Warriors of Arlee, where half the town’s population of 600 is Native American,  are pretty amazing at basketball, too. On March 3, Arlee High School won a second straight state title, defeating Manhattan Christian School 66-58.

Arlee Warriors, you inspire us, on and off the court!

[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.]

 

“Keying into Emotions”

“I can share it with my family.” — Amelia Erikson on how baking cupcakes brings her happiness and helps her open up about her mental illness.

Michayla Savitt hangs out with Amelia Erikson, a 2016 psychology and neuroscience graduate of Ithaca College with bipolar II disorder, in Episode 8 of The Scoop on Mental Health. In “Keying into Emotions,” Amelia shares stories about the evolution of her mental illness starting in childhood, and how she devised personal ways of coping without medication—including the happiness she feels when baking cupcakes. “The other great thing about that is I can share it with my family,” she explains. “If I’m in a little bit of a happier mood while baking, it’s a really good time to be talking to them and sort of explaining how I have been feeling.”

8pod“Keying into Emotions” [Episode 8] Listen

Amelia Erikson shares stories of her bipolar II disorder and how she copes with the symptoms without the aid of medications.