Dash! Splash! It’s Newfield’s Color Run!

The grounds of Newfield High School were ablaze in festive shades of pink, blue, and orange on Saturday as some 250 students, parents, and community members took part in the school’s annual spring Color Run.

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Under a brilliant sun and cloudless sky, everyone from senior citizens to toddlers in strollers to families with pets in tow trekked along their choice of routes—the standard five-kilometer course, one-mile course, or the “family” half-mile track. At five stations along the way the joggers and walkers were doused with colored powder, sometimes to shrieks of delight. With dozens of volunteer organizers on hand to help, music, lawn games, and hot dogs rounded out the day’s fun.

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The Color Run is sponsored by—and raises money for—a great student club at Newfield High School, Sources of Strength (SOS). This is part of a national peer-led suicide prevention program, originally developed in North Dakota in 1998, that promotes hope, help, strength, and connections, and provides support to struggling students.

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Newfield High School heard about Sources of Strength six years ago, and affiliated researchers and trainers at the University of Rochester offered two years of support and a bit of funding to help pilot the program in some Tompkins County schools.

What made this program so appealing to us at Newfield was the unique focus of having peer leaders deliver powerfully positive, strength-driven messages. The University of Rochester researchers had already collected solid data from several schools in North America proving the effectiveness of Sources of Strength.

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As Sources of Strength explains it:

“A best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. The mission of Sources of Strength is to prevent suicide by increasing help seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults. Sources of Strength moves beyond a singular focus on risk factors by utilizing an upstream approach for youth suicide prevention. This upstream model strengthens multiple sources of support (protective factors) around young individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on.”

Each fall, the club’s co-advisors—myself and high school counselor Rick Pawlewicz—take our group of diverse peer leaders through a half-day training to learn about the mission and key messages of Sources Of Strength.

In becoming key “connectors” in their school, the peer leaders focus on identifying and utilizing eight different strengths in our lives: positive friends, healthy activities, family support, mentors, spirituality, generosity, medical access, and mental health. They share stories at weekly SOS meetings about struggles, stressors, and how they use personal sources of strength to get through tough times. Helping to break the silence around mental health, peer leaders actively seek out others to connect them with resources and to their own sources of strength. They continually send the message that it’s okay to talk about tough times, and that it’s essential to tap into our personal strengths and reach out for help.

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SOS peer leaders at Newfield High have created, facilitated, and engaged in countless messaging activities inside our school and in the wider community. The activities include simple, visual messages like posters, cards, videos, and social media posts; trivia games during all lunch periods; Sources of Strength Weeks; pep rallies; and the annual Extravaganzas—nights of fun on campus with games, music, art, and food. The peer leaders give community presentations on their activities, to the Newfield Central School District Board of Education and the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). And, of course, hundreds of community members come out for the annual Color Run.

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We are proud of Newfield High School’s peer leaders and the mentors (teachers, staff, administrators, coaches, etc.) who support their efforts to promote hope, help, strength, and connections throughout every corner of our community. Our goal is that every student knows that they are not alone, and there is always help and support available.

—By Jamie McCaffrey

Jamie McCaffrey, LCSW is a social worker in the Newfield Central School District

Photos courtesy Jamie McCaffrey

 

How To Get Help for Suicidal Thoughts

The suicide deaths of celebrity chef and journalist Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade this week are sobering reminders that thoughts of suicide can afflict many of us. Amid these tragedies—news of which itself can trigger suicidal impulses in some people—it is vital to know how to get help.

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The Jed Foundation provides the following valuable information—please check out these links if you are having thoughts of suicide, or know someone who may be at risk:

I’m having thoughts of suicide

Someone I know may be at risk of suicide

From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Know the risk factors and warning signs for suicide

For immediate help:

If you are thinking about harming yourself, please get help now:

  • Call 911
  • Go to the nearest emergency room
  • Text “START” to 741-741 or Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to your local health care provider or campus counseling service (during business hours) or campus security

If you are having thoughts of self-harm, know that you don’t have to deal with your difficult thoughts and feelings alone. There are resources out there to help you – if you feel like the people you know can’t handle your problems or if you feel like you are beyond being helped or you don’t want to tell your problems to people you know, there are many other ways to get help, support and guidance from people who are available to you 24/7. Counselors at hotlines, crisis centers, or emergency rooms are able to assist you during your worst hours – they will not judge you or force you to do something that will make things worse.  They are there to listen, support, understand and help.

If you are having thoughts about suicide, it probably means that your pain is unbearable and that you feel like the only way to solve your problems is to harm yourself. It is likely that you feel hopeless, alone and beyond help. At this very low point in your life, it is really important to know that it all can get better and the pain can ease if you get help. If you are able to give yourself a chance, and give it time, you can get to a better place in your life and you will be able to figure out ways to cope with your problems.

If you’re feeling suicidal and are not sure if you can stay safe, please call 911 or a hotline, call campus police/security, or go to the emergency department at the nearest hospital. There are many ways to get help right away.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, but you aren’t immediately thinking of hurting yourself and don’t have a plan, consider doing the following:

  • Reach out to someone you feel you can trust (a friend or family member)

It might help you feel less alone and overwhelmed if you talk about your feelings. Remember, now is not the time to worry about hurting their feelings – if it seems like a good friend or family member doesn’t “get it,” move on to someone else who can listen in a way that helps you and give you support in a way that is useful.

  • Make an appointment at the campus counseling center or with a health care provider

Ask to be seen as soon as possible even if you feel your situation is not an emergency. If they question your request for an urgent appointment, tell them you are having thoughts of harming yourself. When you have thoughts of suicide, it is best not to put off talking about your struggles – this is a very vulnerable time for you and the sooner you find support and guidance, the better.

  • Connect to an academic advisor or a religious/faith counselor

Most faith and academic professionals have access to resources to get you help.

  • Call a crisis hotline to talk with someone who has experience with these issues and can offer you support and connect you to resources

Text “START” to 741-741 or call (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Remember: With time and support, it can get better; remember that even if suicidal thoughts and impulses come and go (or even go away), they signal a serious problem and getting help is the best way to get better and heal.

Source: The Jed Foundation

Time to Reflect

Clark Atrium was abuzz. The chatter of students fostering true connections created a steady hum throughout the building. I cannot adequately describe how excited I was during the Cornell chapter of The Reflect Organization’s final meeting of the fall semester in December. We had over 170 students in attendance, eating dinner together and openly discussing their lives in peer-to-peer groups that covered topics from school to stress to relationships and more.

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Reflect at Cornell Co-President Jack Burger (’19) and Treasurer Don Moore (’20) on the Arts Quad

This was double the number of students who showed up for our first meeting in October. But the most rewarding part was the amazing feedback. One of my friends who came on a whim found me as I was cleaning up. “I never thought I’d like this sort of thing,” Darren told me. “But now that I’ve done it, I want to keep coming.” He later asked how he could get even more involved in supporting college students’ mental health through a leadership position with Reflect at Cornell. Now that is the kind of response that really gets me going.

Reflect is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the mental health of students and de-stigmatizing mental health care. Jared Fenton began Reflect as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 following the suicide of his Penn classmate, Madison Holleran. Maddie Feldman and I launched Reflect at Cornell, and became its first co-presidents, at the start of the 2017–18 academic year after seeing how mental health issues were plaguing our campus.

Students at Cornell are known to exhibit Duck Syndrome—you act like everything is alright even though things are tumultuous beneath the surface, like a duck gliding smoothly across the water while actually paddling furiously below. With the heavy demand for appointments at Cornell Health’s Counseling & Psychological Services, and the long wait times involved, it becomes very hard for students to find a place on campus where they feel they can be their true selves. Despite outward appearances, loneliness abounds. The American College Health Association says that more than 60 percent of college students report feeling “very isolated.”

At Reflect, we’re determined to do something about this. We provide students with an opportunity to take off their social media masks and share what’s really going on in their lives. By making it cool to attend a Reflect dinner—and we dish up some pretty tasty pizza (and other meals, depending on the month)—we are striving to facilitate true connections that relieve the isolation.

The response on campus has been inspiring. Hundreds of students have embraced Reflect’s message of openness, honesty, and mutual support. At our dinners, students are engaging in real conversations, and exchanging contact information to meet up later and continue them. Cornell media has taken note of the movement, featuring Reflect at Cornell in the Cornell Daily Sun, Slope Media, and the Dyson Business Feed.

It’s encouraging to see how Reflect has grown from a few dozen Penn students just three years ago to enriching the lives of students at a growing number of other universities across the country. That’s empowering. Here at Cornell, we’re down for another semester and more of making connections, having open conversations, and working on our mental health together. And we’ll continue to serve some pretty good pizza, too!

—By Jack Burger

Jack Burger (’19) is co-president of Reflect at Cornell

Next Reflect at Cornell meeting: 5 p.m., Monday, February 5, Clark Atrium of the Physical Sciences Building.

 

Thank You, GreenStar Family

The Sophie Fund is proud to be a recipient in GreenStar Natural Food Market’s “Bring Your Own Bag, Use it for Good” donations program. Last week, GreenStar delivered a check to The Sophie Fund for $290.10—the result of $0.05 donations by 5,802 GreenStar customers.

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GreenStar’s support for The Sophie Fund’s work for improved youth mental health in the Ithaca community doesn’t stop there. The coop is the prime sponsor of the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest organized by The Sophie Fund each October. GreenStar also welcomed Cornell University and Ithaca College students into its stores last fall to collect donations supporting mental health in Tompkins County. The students raised a total of $829.50, which was presented to the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service last month.

Established in 2014, the Bring Your Own Bag, Use it For Good program has raised more than $10,000 for local nonprofits ranging from the SPCA of Tompkins County to the Cayuga Nature Center. The program, which gives customers a 5-cent donation token for providing their own grocery bags, has also spared the environment some 230,000 carrier sacks.

Thank you, GreenStar family!

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Money, Power, and Sexual Assault (Part 2)

In 2016 and 2017, two of the country’s most powerful conservatives—Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News—were shown the door for sexual harassment of female subordinates. This week—thanks in part to the willingness of harassment victims to speak out—it’s the turn of one of America’s most influential liberals: Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

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An investigation by the New York Times—whose reporting last April led to O’Reilly’s precipitous downfall—revealed sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades. After being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, the newspaper reported, Weinstein reached at least eight settlements with women.

According to the Times:

In interviews, eight women described varying behavior by Mr. Weinstein: appearing nearly or fully naked in front of them, requiring them to be present while he bathed or repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself. The women, typically in their early or middle 20s and hoping to get a toehold in the film industry, said he could switch course quickly—meetings and clipboards one moment, intimate comments the next.

In a statement to the Times, Weinstein apologized for his behavior: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, the board of the Weinstein Company—known for such films as Django Unchained, The King’s Speech, and Silver Linings Playbook—announced that Weinstein was taking an indefinite leave of absence; one-third of the board had immediately resigned amid the allegations of rampant sexual harassment by the company’s co-chairman.

The Times story cites a multi-page 2015 memo to company executives by Weinstein employee Lauren O’Connor, which detailed sexual harassment she and other women experienced at the hands of their boss. She wrote:

“There is a toxic environment for women at this company. I am a professional and have tried to be professional. I am not treated that way however. I am sexualized and diminished.

“I am a 28-year old-woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.

“I am just starting out in my career, and have been and remain fearful about speaking up. But remaining silent is causing me great distress.”

Following a settlement with Weinstein, the Times reported, O’Connor withdrew her complaint six days after sending her memo.

Weinstein is known as a champion of liberal causes, and a donor to Democratic Party candidates. Former President Barack Obama’s eldest daughter Malia interned at the Weinstein Company last summer. Weinstein recently helped endow a faculty chair at Rutgers University in the name of feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

The combined force of power and money was evident in Hollywood’s deafening silence after the scandal broke:

In the wake of the blockbuster Times exposé, The Daily Beast reached out to dozens of prominent actors, actresses, and filmmakers—who both have and have not worked with Weinstein—only to receive many replies of “no comment” and plenty of radio silence.

“Nauseating, chicken-hearted enablers all—all the people who knew and said nothing—and those who are STILL staying silent,” TV personality/writer/chef Anthony Bourdain, one of the few celebrities who did speak out, tweeted in response to the Beast story. Bourdain, who made clear he was not referring to Weinstein’s victims, has 6.45 million Twitter followers.

Update:

“Harvey Weinstein Is Fired After Sexual Harassment Reports” (New York Times headline, October 8, 2017).

The Weinstein Company fired its co-founder Harvey Weinstein on Sunday, after a New York Times investigation uncovered allegations that he had engaged in rampant sexual harassment, dealing a stunning blow to a producer known for shaping American film and championing liberal causes.