“It Affects People We Just Really Love”

Not very long ago, there was a debilitating stigma around breast cancer. After Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s quick and public announcement this week revealing that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, USA Today published a great piece tracing how the stigma has been largely overcome. Are there some lessons here for breaking the stigma around mental health? Let’s hope so!

 

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Looking at “some of the big moments that took breast cancer out of the dark and into the pink,” the article starts with Terese Lasser, “the very first true activist… who bumped against the system.” Lasser questioned her surgeon’s indifference, and eventually formed the Reach to Recovery program to support women coping with breast cancer.

Perhaps we need more Terese Lassers bumping “against the system” in mental health.

The article cites a “huge event”—when then-First Lady Betty Ford announced publicly, in 1974, that she had breast cancer.

Thankfully, more and more public figures are “going public” with their mental health struggles. But more often than not, these testimonials are either overlooked by the media, or overshadowed by coverage of behaviors related to the public figures’ disorders.

The article reports on how in 1982 Nancy Brinker founded the first organization to target fundraising for breast cancer research, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In 2015, Susan G. Komen, just one of many organizations doing this work, reported revenue of $118.4 million. One in 8 women get breast cancer.

Mental health advocates must find more effective ways to fund mental health research. By contrast, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2015 raised less than one-fifth of that—$19.4 million—for its research and advocacy programs. An important organization dealing more broadly with mental health research, the Child Mind Institute, pulled in $11.2 million. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans experienced mental illness in 2015.

USA Today notes how more women were elected to Congress in 1992, and some of them took up the breast cancer cause (including some with personal family experience).

Former Republican Senator Gordan H. Smith of Utah was one such champion for mental health in Congress. After his son died by suicide at age 21 in 2003, Smith pushed for passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. It has provided millions in government funds for suicide prevention projects across the nation.

Explaining the success of the fight against breast cancer, a spokesman for the Susan H. Komen foundation remarked: “It affects people we just really love. Our moms and our daughters. Our grandmothers and our sisters. And in some cases our dads.”

Mental illness, too, affects people we just really love.

Caption: The semicolon is a symbol of suicide prevention, the brainchild of Project Semicolon whose slogan holds that “your story isn’t over yet.”

The Great Ithaca Cupcake Bake Off

Warm up your ovens! The 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest will be held in the Commons on Saturday October 14.

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Contestants of all ages are invited to enter their tasty masterpieces, which will be eligible for more than $500 in prizes. The contest is open to amateur bakers only.

The contest is organized 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.

The 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by the GreenStar Natural Foods Market, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and La Tourelle Hotel, Bistro and Spa. It is also supported by Waffle Frolic, Active Minds of Ithaca College, and Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Sigma Pi and Cornell Minds Matter of Cornell University.

Sophie’s own longstanding passion for baking and cupcakes inspired the launch of the contest. 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.

To enter the cupcake contest, entrants are asked to bring their submissions to the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons from 10–11:30 a.m. on Saturday October 14. The winners will be announced and prizes awarded at a ceremony in the Pavilion later the same day at 3 p.m.

Last year, 57 contestants participated in the bake off, with Monica Lee Cotto taking home the top prize with a pumpkin cheesecake cupcake, set in a chocolate cage and topped with a confectionery yellow and coral rose and a butterfly crisp. The Best Youth Award went to 9-year-old Natalie McCaskill-Myers, who submitted a batch of lemon cherry cupcakes laced with lavender.

Sophie was born in Johannesburg and spent her childhood living in South Africa, then France, and eventually Egypt. But she adopted Ithaca as her hometown, spending five summers in the violin program of the Suzuki Institutes at Ithaca College and then enrolling at Cornell in 2010.

In conjunction with the contest, The Sophie Fund is organizing a fundraising campaign, with monies donated to suicide prevention causes in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

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

Thank You, Active Minds

Congratulations to Active Minds of Ithaca College, the top fundraising team at Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Ithaca Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The 16-member Active Minds Team raised $1,060, followed by $953 by Team Hope, $706 by Bob’s Angels, $700 by Team Scott, and $555 by the Cornell University Childcare Center.

Out of the Darkness walks raise awareness about suicide prevention and raise monies for new research, educational programs, advocacy for public policy, and supporting survivors of suicide loss. This year’s Ithaca Walk raised a total of $9,629.

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Active Minds Co-President S. Makai Andrews, who served as AM’s Team Captain for the Ithaca Walk, was the third-highest individual fundraiser with $555 in donations. AM Social Media Chair Kristin Butler brought in another $210.

Andrews said she joined the walk wanting to give hope to people who may be battling suicidal feelings. “There is still an incredible degree of shame and disapproval associated with those who struggle with their mental health,” she said. “Though we know what bipolar disorder is now, that doesn’t mean that those experiencing manic or depressive episodes are always given the time off work that they may need. Though we know what depression is, we’re still telling people to perk up.”

Elizabeth Mortlock was the second-highest individual fundraiser with $782 in donations.

The Ithaca Walk’s No. 1 individual fundraiser was Clara Scher, who brought in $825 donations. Scher said she sought to spread awareness and raise money in memory of her friend and teammate Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania track and field student athlete who took her own life in January 2014.

Scher was one of several walkers who said they were driven to help prevent suicide after experiencing the devastating loss of a friend or loved one. “This tragedy exposed the debilitating effects of major depression, and motivated me to devote my career in the field of psychology to help prevent the loss of others to this horrific disease,” Scher said.

Donations to the Ithaca Walk can be made through December 31—click here to contribute through the Active Minds Team.

[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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S. Makai Andrews and Kristin Butler

 

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Ithaca Walk Registration

 

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Ithaca Walkers gathering at Cass Park

 

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Spreading the message with AFSP merch

 

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Active Minds table at the Ithaca Walk

 

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Out of the Darkness walks

Photos courtesy of Active Minds of Ithaca College

 

Save a Life: Learn the Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Consider sharing this post. It’s National Suicide Prevention Week— please take a moment to review the Risk Factors and the Warning Signs as they may apply to loved ones, friends, colleagues, or even yourself. Click here for the Risk Factors/Warning Signs page of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. People with Risk Factors or exhibiting Warning Signs are strongly encouraged to seek treatment—suicide is preventable. If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, please consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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From AFSP:

“There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions lead fulfilling lives.”

Risk Factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life:

Health Risk Factors—such as mental health conditions, substance abuse disorders, or serious/chronic health conditions and/or pain.

Environmental Risk Factors—such as stressful life events, prolonged stress conditions, access to lethal means, and exposure to suicide.

Historical Risk Factors—such as previous suicide attempts.

Be aware of Warning Signs.

According to AFSP, most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Warning Signs relate to a person’s Talk— about “being a burden to others,” or “feeling trapped,” or “experiencing unbearable pain,” or “having no reason to live,” or “killing themselves.”

Warning Signs relate to a person’s Mood—displaying one or more moods such as depression, loss of interest, rage, irritability, humiliation, anxiety.

Warning Signs relate to a person’s Behavior—such as increased use of alcohol or drugs, aggression, acting recklessly, withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, giving away prized possessions, and looking for a way to kill themselves.

“Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change.”

How to help someone who may be struggling: click here for guidance from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Click on the infographic below to download a Warning Signs checklist.

Ithacans Walk to Prevent Suicide

The annual Ithaca Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is this Saturday, September 16, from 12 Noon to 2 p.m. You can walk, donate, or do both! Support the Walkers from Ithaca College’s amazing Active Minds chapter by clicking here.

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AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” walks raise awareness and funds for new research, educational programs, advocacy for public policy, and supporting survivors of suicide loss. The Ithaca Walk’s fundraising goal is $20,000.

From Ithaca College’s Active Minds chapter:

“We are joining the community of nearly 250,000 people walking in hundreds of cities across the country in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible and will help bring AFSP one step closer to achieving their bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.”

Walk Date: September 16, 2017

Walk Location: Cass Park, Water Front Trail

Check-in/Registration Time: 10:30 a.m.

Walk Begins: 12 Noon

Walk Ends: 2:00 p.m.

For more information:

Contact Phone: (607) 327 3370

Contact Email: IthacaAFSP@gmail.com

To become a Walker, click here to register online. (Or you can register in person from 10:30 a.m. to 12 Noon right before the Walk.)

To donate through a member of the Ithaca College Active Minds Team, click here!

To make a donation through another Ithaca Walk participant, click here.

To make a donation directly to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, click here.

Photo caption: Active Minds past co-President Alex Lopez and current co-President Makai Andrews at The Sophie Fund’s meeting in April.

[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.]