Where to Get Support

The Sophie Fund has released the 2023 guide to Mental Health Support and Crisis Services in Tompkins County.

The two-pager provides quick phone numbers and web links for suicide prevention, community and campus mental health clinics, local addiction recovery services, and sexual assault and domestic violence awareness and victim support. It also includes information about family and youth mental health support groups and how to locate a local primary care physician.

Copies of the guide can be posted on community bulletin boards and in clinical waiting rooms, distributed at schools, places of worship, and public events, or given to family members and friends. The guide can be easily downloaded and saved to laptops and mobile phones (note the QR code at the bottom of the guide) and shared via emails and social media.

Inspiration for the guide came from Cayuga Health Partners, which saw the value of providing the resource to primary care patients who screened for behavioral health complaints.

The Sophie Fund developed the guide in consultation with community health organizations, including the Tompkins County Health Department, Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, Cayuga Health, and Guthrie Cortland.

“There continues to be a stigma around mental health and seeking help for problems like depression, substance abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence,”  said Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund.

“We hope that the guide will help people see how normal and easy it is to reach out for professional help. We also hope that the guide cuts through any confusion folks may have about the array of services available to them in the greater Ithaca community.”

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Youth Stories of Resilience and Survival

A dynamic new installation at the Community Arts Partnership’s ArtSpace in January features the mental health stories of ten local youth.

Samir, by Rayan

“Naming the Unnamable,” curated by local author Bree Barton, will explore the personal journeys of ten young local artists through short film, audio recordings, written text, and visual art. The exhibit opens at the CAP ArtSpace on Gallery Night Friday January 6, where the artists will be present to talk about their work from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. The installation will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday throughout January.

Barton conceived the project after touring the country with her most recent book, Zia Erases the World, a middle grade novel inspired by her childhood depression. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, she met myriad students who talked openly about how they’d struggled—and how they’d survived. Barton envisioned creating a space where young artists could shape their own narratives through different mediums.

“I’ve always been interested in storytelling as a path to healing,” said Barton. “For me, that meant writing. For others, it might be drawing or filmmaking or collage. I gave these young artists a simple prompt: if you could tell us the story of your mental health journey over the last few years, what would you create?”

The result is an unflinching body of work from a diverse group of youth. Folx who self-identify as queer, BIPOC, and neurodiverse take center stage, as well as those with experience of homelessness. Several of the participating artists are members of the Youth Action Board (YAB), a group of youth with experience of homelessness in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

BERETTA., a member of YAB, makes art to capture “moments in life that often go overlooked, unseen, and under-represented due to the stigmatizing nature of themes such as trauma, substance dependency, mental illness, homelessness, and poverty.” The exhibit will showcase her digital collages and the eulogy she wrote for her best friend, a project she dedicates to his memory “and all the other folks we’ve lost in the street community before they could find comfort and home and peace.”

Downward Spiral, by BERETTA.

Hannah, a junior at Ithaca College, will share “an exploration of the psychological impacts of trauma through sound.” Hannah’s sound art heavily reflects their personal traumas, as well as that of their peers. Their goal is to “create a self-reflexive environment where the listener can learn from others’ traumas and sit in the uncomfortable. It’s about keeping an open mind to what others may be going through.”

At Gallery Night on January 6, Rayan will premiere her short film, Samir, the Somali word for “patience.” In Samir, Rayan recreates her experiences living in the Awbare refugee camp in Ethiopia for almost seven years. “This is a really personal project to me,” she said. “It has a lot of memory and meaning behind it.” In the film, which will play on loop in the gallery during open hours, Rayan reads from one of her “most precious journals” to capture the loneliness and isolation of that difficult time.

For high school sophomore Elise, this project has been a “rollercoaster of emotions.” The exhibit will feature her self-portrait and other art pieces, as well as an essay she wrote after losing her dad to suicide. “Although it’s very difficult to talk about my story and my dad,” Elise said, “I find it very refreshing to express my own feelings through art and writing. I hope my work can inspire someone to do the same.”

Untitled, by Elise

“This exhibit will offer no shortage of inspiration,” Barton said. “The art these youth have created is powerful, personal, and profound. I encourage people to move through the installation at their own pace, with an open heart and mind, and full permission to step away as needed.”

Barton hopes the artists’ willingness to engage with difficult themes will catalyze important conversations around mental health. Her goal is for more people, of all ages, to find healthy ways to share whatever it is they’re going through—and to ask for resources and support.

“It’s all about naming the unnamable,” said Barton. “Whether you do it through words or other forms of self expression. These young folx are wildly creative and courageous, and I cannot wait to share their work with the community. They are shining a light in a dark room. In the face of unimaginable loss and trauma, they show us that we, too, can survive.”

This project is made possible, in full, with funding from the SOS grant and Creative Recovery Fund from the Community Arts Partnership and the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

Community Arts Partnership ArtSpace, 110 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY 14850

Ithaca’s Best Cupcakes 2022

Megan Martinez won 1st Place with her Tiramisu Bouquet Cupcakes in the 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund on October 15. Her masterpiece consisted of ladyfinger cakes soaked with marsala and expresso syrup, topped with whipped mascarpone frosting dusted with cocoa powder and a hand-cut chocolate bouquet of flowers.

Megan Martinez’s Grand Prize-winning Cupcakes

“Tiramisu is a dessert that everyone in my house can get on board with, so when it comes to  making cupcakes that I think are the very best, this is one of the first places my mind goes,” Martinez said. “The syrup soak makes such a moist cupcake. Having this with a cup of coffee is like heaven to me.”

Martinez said that the contest provided her with “an excuse to spend some time on a fancy baking project.” With a five-month-old baby, she explained, “baking like I used to has been completely off my radar.” Fun fact (and perhaps an inspiration?): the last time Martinez tasted tiramisu was in the hospital just after her little one was born.

1st Place Awardee Megan Martinez

The judges awarded Akiko Cliteur 2nd Place with her Baked Cheesecake and Swan Cream Puff Cupcakes. She explained that she has loved making baked cheesecake with sour cream topping since discovering a recipe 15 years ago, and that cream puffs are another of her go-to desserts. “I thought about combining my favorite things together as a cupcake for the first time for this contest,” Cliteur said.

Akiko Cliteur’s Baked Cheesecake and Swan Cream Puff Cupcake

Ayumi Pereira took home 3rd Place with her Matcha Green Tea Cream-Filled Cupcakes. The treats consisted of matcha-flavored cakes with cream cheese filling, whipped vanilla cream frosting, topped with a white chocolate sakura, or cheery blossom.  “I’m from Japan, and I wanted to create cupcakes with something that represents my county,” Pereira said. “Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder, and it has an addictive, earthy, smooth green tea flavor.”

Ayumi Pereira’s Matcha Green Tea Cream-Filled Cupcake

Katy Holloway received the Youth Award for the second year in a row, for her gluten-free S’more Cupcakes Please! Cupcakes. Her chocolate cakes had a honey graham cracker base and a chocolate ganache center, and were topped with marshmallow frosting and marshmallow and Hershey’s bar decorations.

“S’mores are full of memories of friends and family around the campfire filled with summer fun,” said Katy, who recalls with a smile the time her brother got some sticky white goo stuck in his hair while roasting marshmallows.

Katy Holloway’s S’more Cupcakes Please! Cupcake

This year’s contest, held in the Ithaca Commons, drew 25 entries with a range of themes from chai latte and root beer floats, local honey and apple pies, gingerbread houses and pumpkin patches, family recipes and mental health awareness, and the ‘70s rock band The Runaways, Day of the Dead traditions, and the Onam harvest festival in India.

The Awards Ceremony was hosted by Carley Robinson of the Civic Ensemble, and featured live musical performances by SingTrece & Kenneth McLaurin, Joe Gibson, Rachel Beverly, and the Maud Powell and Joachim Group Suzuki classes at Ithaca Talent Education.

Judging the finalists were professionals from Ithaca’s culinary community: Yuko Jingu of Akemi Food; Ashley Case of Case Sera Sera; Racquel Riccardi of the Sinfully Delicious Baking Co.; Melissa Kenny of Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop; and Via Carpenter of Via’s Cookies.

The 7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest was sponsored by Visions Federal Credit Union, Cayuga Health, GreenStar Food Co+op, and MindWell Center. Technical support was contributed by Well Said Media and Hickey’s Music Center. The contest was produced by Cara Nichols of CRN Events.

Volunteers from student organizations at Cornell University supported the contest: Cornell Circle K, Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Sigma Pi, PATCH, and Cornell Health International, and Cornell Minds Matter.

Also participating in the day-long event were organizations advancing mental health in the greater Ithaca community. They included: Be Kind Ithaca; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Finger Lakes; Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca; and the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.

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, Sophie was on a medical leave of absence from Cornell and active in Ithaca’s culinary scene.

Top Awardees (receiving Downtown Ithaca Alliance gift cards accepted by more than 100 local shops and restaurants):

1st Place & Grand Prize ($250): Megan Martinez

2nd Place ($150): Akiko Cliteur

3rd Place ($100): Ayumi Pereira

Youth Award ($100): Katy Holloway

It’s United in Kindness Month!

The Tompkins County Legislature has proclaimed October to be “United in Kindness Month” aligned with National Bullying Prevention Month.

Legislature Chair Shawna Black issued the proclamation on October 6 after the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force coordinated a series of nine events with kindness themes for the month. Task Force Steering Committee Member Brandi Remington, Youth Development Coordinator at TST BOCES, was on hand to receive the proclamation.

The proclamation reads as follows:

WHEREAS, bullying has been identified as a prevalent and serious problem affecting today’s youth, and
 
WHEREAS, 19 percent of high school students nationally, and 21.7 percent of New York State high school students are bullied at school, and
 
WHEREAS, types of youth bullying include physical, verbal, and relational bullying, as well as cyberbullying that involves threatening or harassing electronic communications, and
 
WHEREAS, bullying has psychological, physical, and academic effects, and adversely affects youth who are bullied as well as those who engage in bullying, and
 
WHEREAS, more than two dozen government agencies, community organizations, parents, and representatives from the County’s six school districts formed the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force in March 2019, and
 
WHEREAS, the Task Force’s mission is to facilitate comprehensive cooperation across the community in developing and promoting appropriate bullying prevention and response strategies in Tompkins County, and
 
WHEREAS, every member of the Tompkins County community, government agencies, community organizations, school administrators, teachers, athletic coaches, parents, and students can play a part in creating a bully-free environment in our schools, athletics fields, public spaces, and online websites,
 
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Shawna Black, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, do hereby proclaim the month of October 2022, as
UNITED IN KINDNESS MONTH IN TOMPKINS COUNTY.

Tompkins Parents: Get Smarter about Kids and Social Media

Our kids are spending more and more time on social media, according to a recent survey. Are you a parent who feels confused and even despairing about raising children in the Digital Age?

The survey by Common Sense Media found that teens are spending an average of one hour 27 minutes a day on social media apps (current top favorites are TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram). That’s a 25 percent jump between 2019 and 2021.

A worrying trend is the growing use of social media by kids aged 8 to 12. Eighteen percent of tweens are on social media every day, and overall tween use almost doubled to 18 minutes a day on average during the height of the pandemic.

Another survey in 2020 by the Lurie Blog found that 58 percent of parents believe social media has a net negative effect on their children. The concerns fall into two categories: what it takes away (sleep, schoolwork) and exposure (cyberbullying, sexual content).

To learn more about the pitfalls—and benefits—of social media, and how to handle the sometimes sticky issues with your children, sign up for a webinar designed for Tompkins County families on Wednesday October 19 between 12 Noon and 1:30 p.m.

Social media expert Chris Vollum  will present “Digital Intelligence and Well-Being for Parents,” a free webinar via Zoom sponsored by Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca and The Sophie Fund.

Click Here to Register (It’s free!)

Vollum’s webinar seeks to give parents clarity, confidence, joy and new skills on how to support and discuss both the benefits and risks of social apps and platforms with their children.

“Social media and social apps dominate student life,” Vollum says. “In a post-pandemic world, they are relied upon even more to build relationships, establish connections and stay in the loop.”

He encourages parents to become more proficient with the social apps and platforms that their kids are using to define their lives. His presentation equips parents and caregivers with the skills to launch important conversations with their kids on a level that builds trust, collaboration, transparency—and establishes mutual expectations.

The webinar presents a visual step-by-step walkthrough of the features, functionality, and privacy settings of Snapchat, TikTok, Discord, and Instagram.

“With a working understanding of the world of social media and what drives its global popularity, fear and uncertainty that participants might have is extinguished and replaced with confidence, knowledge and inspiration,” Vollum says.

The webinar is part of the United in Kindness series in Tompkins County during the month of October.