Mayor Svante Myrick: Support Suicide Prevention

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick issued a proclamation Wednesday in support of The Watershed Declaration, a commitment by local mental health stakeholders to intensify efforts to prevent suicide in the community.

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“I call upon our citizens, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, health care providers, and educational institutions to raise awareness of Ithaca’s mental health support services, encourage those in need to seek treatment, honor those in our community we have lost too soon, and commit to an all-out effort to prevent suicide,” Svante said in issuing the proclamation at the start of the Ithaca Common Council meeting Wednesday evening.

The Watershed Declaration was adopted by acclamation at the close of a meeting held on April 17 of leaders from Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, non-profit organizations, and the campuses of Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. The declaration termed suicide a “serious public health concern” and pledged to intensify suicide prevention efforts in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Myrick said there is strong evidence that a comprehensive public health approach is effective in preventing suicide, and called on the community’s health and behavioral health systems to prevent suicide deaths using the best available information and practices.

Moreover, Myrick said, “every member of our community can play a role in protecting their friends, family members, and colleagues from suicide. Our community needs to advance suicide prevention by fighting the stigma around mental health and seeking treatment for mental disorders.”

Lee-Ellen Marvin, executive director of the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in Ithaca, expressed her gratitude for “the mayor’s support for reinvigorating our community’s commitment to suicide prevention. The need has never been greater. Unfortunately, suicide rates have been increasing in the last 15 to 20 years.”

“This proclamation is highlighting the need to address suicide prevention,” said Sharon MacDougall, deputy commissioner of Mental Health Services in Tompkins County. MacDougall added that her agency is working with the New York State Office of Mental Health to create a Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition. “Selected key stakeholders will be invited to a planning meeting to start the Tompkins Suicide Prevention Coalition this summer,” she said. “This coalition will help coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies, providers and others to improve suicide prevention across Tompkins.”

Proclamation

The Watershed Declaration was adopted by acclamation at a meeting of 18 organizations hosted by The Sophie Fund, which was established in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to promote improved mental health for young people in the greater Ithaca area.

The Watershed Declaration stated:

“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.”

Photo caption: Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, The Sophie Fund Co-Donor Advisor Scott MacLeod, and Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service Executive Director Lee-Ellen Marvin

Cornell’s Walk for Suicide Prevention

Cornell University’s Phi Sigma Pi (PSP) national honor fraternity sponsored a suicide prevention walk on April 28 to benefit The Sophie Fund of Ithaca and the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“Phi Sigma Pi organized this walk because we wanted to increase campus conversation about mental health,” said PSP brother Elizabeth Cavic (’18), who studies Human Development in the College of Human Ecology. “We believe that people not engaging in these critical conversations about mental health perpetuates the stigma surrounding poor mental health, which contributes to further stigmatization.”

Scott MacLeod, a donor advisor of The Sophie Fund, thanked Cavic, her fellow PSP brothers, and all those who participated in the walk. “We’ve had the honor of working with Phi Sigma Pi on other mental health projects, and are very grateful for the support it gives to mental health awareness and suicide prevention efforts,” he said.

MacLeod and his wife Susan Hack established The Sophie Fund in 2016 to support mental health initiatives aiding young people in the Ithaca area. The fund is in memory of their daughter, Sophie Hack MacLeod (’14), who died by suicide in Ithaca in March 2016.

PSP is a co-educational fraternity open to undergraduate students that embraces the ideals of scholarship, leadership, and fellowship. The PSP Beta Nu Chapter at Cornell was founded in 1994 and has about 80 active members in a given semester.

[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.]

The Sophie Fund Author Series

The Sophie Fund announced on Saturday that it has awarded a $1,500 grant to the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County for the creation of a series of events featuring authors of books on mental health topics. The events will be hosted by Buffalo Street Books.

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Stay tuned for announcements about the series from the Mental Health Association and Buffalo Street Books.

Susan Hack, a donor advisor of The Sophie Fund, commented: “We’re thrilled and grateful to the Mental Health Association and Buffalo Street Books for developing this book series, which we are sure will stimulate important discussions about the many mental health issues affecting the greater Ithaca community. The Sophie Fund is honored to work with these committed partners.”

The Sophie Fund’s Advisory Group

The Sophie Fund is proud to announce the formation of its Community Advisory Group, consisting of four individuals with strong experience in health services, civil society, social advocacy, and college campus life in the Greater Ithaca area.

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The Sophie Fund was established in April 2016 in memory of Sophie Hack MacLeod, a Cornell University art student who succumbed to her battle with depression in Ithaca on March 26, 2016. The focus for the fund’s work is supporting mental health initiatives aiding young people.

The members of the Community Advisory Group, which will provide guidance for The Sophie Fund’s financial grants and advocacy initiatives, are:

David Evelyn, MD, is vice president for Medical Affairs at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York. He previously served as vice president for Medical Affairs at A. O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, New York. He earned his medical degree from the Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, and a master of public health degree from Columbia University. He is a member of the American Association of Family Physicians, American College of Physician Executives, and the Statewide Steering Committee on Quality Initiatives of the Healthcare Association of New York State.

Aliana Heffernan is a New York City-based marketing associate for Condeco Software, an international workspace technology company, and a freelance writer and social media consultant. She is the Class of 2014 Facebook manager for the Cornell Alumni Association, a member of the NYC Cornellians Board, and a Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador.

James (“Jim”) Johnston served for 40 years as president and chief executive officer of Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, which supports, promotes, and strengthens the wellbeing of individuals and families by providing high-quality, accessible mental health care and related social services with a particular sensitivity toward the needs of children.

Nicole LaFave is the program coordinator for Community Service and Leadership Development at the Cornell University Public Service Center. She is a member of the Ithaca Board of Education and the Ithaca City Community Police Review Board. She holds a BA degree from Ithaca College in Sociology with a concentration in juvenile criminal studies and race and ethnic relations.

The Sophie Fund’s mission is to make a tangible impact on the wellbeing of young people facing mental health challenges in the Greater Ithaca community, by providing funding for effective initiatives, being a catalyst to raise awareness about mental health, and supporting suicide prevention efforts.

The Sophie Fund is a donor-advised fund within the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. Established in 2000, the foundation is led by Chief Executive Officer George Ferrari, Jr. The foundation is home to 95 funds supporting a broad range of organizations in the areas of education, environment, arts and culture, health and human services, and community building. Sophie’s parents, Scott MacLeod and Susan Hack, serve as the fund’s donor advisors.