Sophie Hack MacLeod
Cornell Students Supporting Our Mental Health
Cornell University student organizations participating in The Sophie Fund’s 2022 “Cupcake Button” fundraising campaign collected $902.57 for the Finger Lakes chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
NAMI’s Elisa Tobia and Sandra Sorensen with APO’s Sanvi Bhardwaj, PATCH’S Ashley Teal and Orell Rayhan, and Circle K’s Max Fante
The organizations taking part were Alpha Phi Omega Gamma Chapter (APO), Cornell Circle K, and Pre-Professional Association Towards Careers in Health (PATCH). At a luncheon at the Statler Hotel on February 8, leaders of the groups handed over a check from the campaign to NAMI-Finger Lakes Executive Director Sandra Sorensen.
“One of the goals of NAMI-Finger Lakes is to diversify who we are reaching with our services, and young adults are on our list,” said Sorensen. “Through this fundraiser we were not only able to connect with The Sophie Fund, but with several Cornell student service organizations.”
Sorensen said that she appreciated the luncheon discussion with student leaders around mental health issues, including the struggles of receiving mental health services on an elite academic campus such as Cornell and future collaborations on programming and fundraising.
“It is very hopeful to see the changes that have occurred over years of really hard work by many people and organizations in the mental health arena surrounding stigma,” she added. “There is still so much work to be done, but our young adults are more free than previous generations were to discuss and advocate for their own mental illness and for their friends and family who are struggling.”
The Sophie Fund organizes the Cupcake Button campaign and the related Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest each fall to promote mental health awareness and raise monies for local nonprofits supporting community mental health. Donors receive a Cupcake Button featuring the image of a cupcake created by Sophie Hack MacLeod, a Cornell art student who died by suicide in 2016 for whom The Sophie Fund is named.
Max Fante of Circle K said participating in the fundraising for NAMI-Finger Lakes along with supporting the related 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest last October was an “unforgettable experience” in “doing meaningful service through direct community engagement.”
“Circle K members were able to interact with NAMI members and learn about new ways to contribute to mental health improvement on the Cornell campus,” he said. “Overall, Circle K is glad to have played a role in destigmatizing mental illness and spreading awareness in Ithaca.”
Orell Rayhan of PATCH said that her organization works to educate its future health professionals about mental health.
“We like to provide an opportunity for our members to understand and destigmatize mental health, as it could affect them or their patients in the future,” said Rayhan. “The Sophie Fund and NAMI helped us do just that. We were able to provide our members with a story and meaning behind what these amazing organizations do, allowing them to connect on a much deeper level with the cause they worked with.”
Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, expressed his appreciation for the student activism in support of mental health.
“Cornell student leaders are passionate about mental health,” he said. “These organizations do fantastic work to advocate for improvements in services and campus climate. The Sophie Fund is grateful for the chance to partner with groups like APO, Circle K, and PATCH.”
MacLeod said Cupcake Button campaigns began in 2017. Student organizations have raised a total of $5,568.88 for six local nonprofits supporting mental health: Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, the Village at Ithaca, The Learning Web, and NAMI-Finger Lakes.
Donate to The Sophie Fund: Our 2022 Appeal
Please consider making a donation today to support The Sophie Fund’s work on mental health initiatives aiding young people in the Ithaca and Tompkins County communities. Sophie would have turned 30 on August 23 this week, and we are marking the occasion to launch our 2022 fundraising appeal.
To Make a Donation:
Current goals in need of funding include:
—Funding United in Kindness community events in October for Bullying Prevention Month.
—Funding training in mental health and suicide prevention for clinicians, social workers, and community members.
—Collaborating with student organizations to campaign against sexual assault on college campuses.
—Hosting our 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest to raise awareness about mental health (In person again this year, in the Ithaca Commons October 15.)
A few highlights of The Sophie Fund’s work since our last fundraising appeal in 2021:
Zero Suicide Initiative. We hosted a series of five presentations and trainings for Tompkins County healthcare leaders, primary care physicians, clinicians, and social workers to advance an evidence-based model of suicide care.
My Mental Health Resources. The Sophie Fund created a quick guide to local mental health resources downloadable to smart phones.
A Parent’s Guide to College Student Mental Health. We published a resource pamphlet to help families navigate mental health challenges their students may face.
Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force. The Sophie Fund is the coordinator of a community task force to combat youth bullying. The task force sponsored “What to Do About Cyberbullying,” a United in Kindness symposium featuring national and local experts on digital media and school climate.
Make Kindness Go Viral! The Sophie Fund funded and organized a student art and essay contest hosted by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force.
Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition. The Sophie Fund chaired a work group that wrote the coalition’s Three-Year Strategic Plan 2022-2025 guided by a vision “for a community where no lives are lost to suicide” and using data, science, and collaborations to implement effective strategies.
Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest. We hosted the sixth annual contest (virtual edition, due to Covid-19). The contest brings together college and high school students, mental health providers, local businesses, and the general public to raise awareness about mental health.
Mental Health First Aid. The Sophie Fund provided grants to Tompkins Cortland Community College and the Mental Health Foundation to provide training to clinicians, students, and community members.
Breaking Our Silence: Storytelling for Mental Health. The Sophie Fund sponsored a series of film, theater, dance, literature, music, and other activities “to increase empathy, build understanding, and help lift the shroud of shame and secrecy around mental illness.”
Delia Divided. The Sophie Fund sponsored the Civic Ensemble ReEntry Theatre Program’s premier of a play exploring the impacts of mental health, incarceration, and racism.
Ithaca College Interns. We hosted two interns from Ithaca College during the 2021-22 academic year to write about mental health for our website: Matt Minton and Jordan Mast.
For more information on The Sophie Fund’s work, please visit:
Five Years After The Watershed Declaration
Five Aprils ago, The Sophie Fund organized a meeting of community mental health stakeholders representing 18 governmental and non-profit organizations from Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the campuses of Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Co-Founder Scott MacLeod introduced The Sophie Fund to the community, explaining that it was established in memory of his daughter who died by suicide in Ithaca the previous year, and outlining its mission to support mental health initiatives aiding young people in the greater Ithaca area.
Garra Lloyd-Lester, associate director of the Suicide Prevention Center New York, announced plans to convene a “key stakeholders” with the aim of establishing a suicide prevention coalition in Tompkins County.
At the close of the April 17, 2017 meeting, the assembled stakeholders adopted a solemn resolution. It was dubbed The Watershed Declaration, as the meeting was hosted by The Watershed, a new downtown watering hole owned by Sophie’s friend and former colleague.
The declaration reads:
“We the assembled mental health stakeholders of the greater Ithaca community and Tompkins County recognize suicide as a serious public health concern. Today we renew our commitment to suicide prevention and pledge to intensify efforts toward saving lives and bringing hope to those struggling with suicide thoughts or affected by suicide loss.”
How did that pledge turn out? The results are mixed.
Since The Watershed Declaration was adopted, Tompkins County has averaged 12 suicide deaths per year. There is anecdotal evidence of a spike in local suicides, including those on college campuses, in 2021 and 2022. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 10-34.
GET INVOLVED: Interested to join the cause of suicide prevention? Email The Sophie Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org
In June 2017, then Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick issued a proclamation in support of The Watershed Declaration, and the Tompkins County Legislature proclaimed September 2017 to be The Watershed Declaration Month.
Led by Tompkins County Mental Health Services, 40 local mental health leaders came together in July 2017 and launched the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
In October 2017, The Sophie Fund organized an expert briefing at the Statler Hotel for senior healthcare administrators throughout Tompkins County; the topic was the Zero Suicide Model, which is designed to improve suicide prevention measures in healthcare systems.
Eight months later, the Suicide Prevention Coalition adopted Zero Suicide as its policy; eight healthcare providers stepped up to declare themselves “Zero Suicide Champions,” pledging to explore implementation of the model. In July 2018, the county legislature unanimously passed a resolution to support Zero Suicide, calling on local healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers to follow the model’s systematic clinical approach to preventing suicides.
Coalition work toward drafting a strategic plan, creating a leadership team, expanding membership, conducting outreach, and following up on Zero Suicide implementation badly drifted in 2020; this was partly due to leadership transitions throughout the county’s healthcare agencies, as well as disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The coalition resumed monthly meetings in February 2021, elected Sally Manning of Racker as convener, and resumed work on a strategic plan.
In February 2022, then coalition unanimously adopted a three-year strategic plan guided by a vision “for a community where no lives are lost to suicide” and using data, science, and collaborations to implement effective strategies.
The five-point plan calls for using data to inform suicide prevention strategies; advancing the Zero Suicide Model in healthcare; reducing suicide in the youth population; reducing access to lethal means; and advocating for policies and practices to prevent suicide. The coalition has formed work groups to drive efforts in all five areas.
For its part, The Sophie Fund re-launched its Zero Suicide Initiative with a series of presentations and trainings to reinvigorate work on the model in Tompkins County.
On November 16 The Sophie Fund hosted “Call to Action: Suicide Prevention in Healthcare,” an expert briefing for top healthcare leaders by Jenna Heise, director of Suicide Prevention Implementation at the Suicide Prevention Center of New York.
This was followed on March 9 with “Understanding, Identifying, and Addressing Suicide Risk: A Clinical Primer for Behavioral Health Providers,” a training with national suicide prevention leaders hosted by The Wellness Institute.
The Sophie Fund on March 24 hosted “Implementation of Zero Suicide,” a suicide prevention presentation for front line managers representing 10 leading healthcare providers in Tompkins County; it was led by Tammy Weppelman, the State Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and Mike Olson, the crisis program manager at My Health My Resources, an agency currently implementing the model in in Tarrant County, Texas.
On June 16, Virna Little, CEO of Concert Health and a leading expert on integrating primary care and behavioral health, will provide a briefing for primary care physicians and their teams on implementing Zero Suicide protocols in primary care practices.
Finally, in June Jenna Heise of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York will return to Ithaca for a roundtable discussion with top healthcare leaders on Zero Suicide implementation progress.
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