It’s time for The Sophie Fund’s 2023 Cupcake Button fundraiser! Each October, we work alongside student organizations to raise monies for a local nonprofit focused on community well-being.
This year’s campaign is collecting donations for the Greg Eells Memorial Fund at Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca. The fund provides wellness support and continuing education opportunities for the organization’s own staff members.
Family & Children’s is a private, nonprofit community agency dedicated to supporting, promoting, and strengthening the well-being 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.
In 2022, the agency provided 1,289 clients with counseling services in nearly 30,000 appointments. More than 1,000 other clients were served in other programs such as psychiatry, geriatric mental health, and community outreach.
The Memorial Fund was created to honor Eells, the longtime executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Cornell University, board member at Family & Children’s, and national leader in the student mental health field, who died by suicide in 2019.
The fund was inspired by Eells’s widow, Michelle Eells, who seeks to provide greater support for clinicians and others who spend long hours treating clients with mental health issues including many who are struggling.
Donor Engagement Manager Lovisa Johanson said that the fund has provided wellness opportunities such as meditation workshops, on site massages, and movement sessions as well as social activities for employee appreciation, community building, and resiliency enhancement.
“I am so happy there is opportunity for the community to learn a little more about what the Greg Eells Memorial Fund does for us,” she said.
To donate directly to the Greg Eells Memorial Fund, click here and use the drop-down menu to designate your gift.
Michelle along with their daughter Kayla and several friends also founded Health & Unity for Greg (HUG) “to continue Greg’s work in the world, inspired by Greg’s passion for people and overall wellness in mind, body, and spirit.”
HUG focuses on uniting community through advocacy events that exercise physical and mental health to end the stigma for all. “HUG especially recognizes the work of those serving in the mental health profession and aims to increase wellness support,” she said.
Michelle said that to honor her husband, there are two important aspects of his life and career HUG wants to remember and advance.
“HUG recognizes mental health providers and caregivers who, like my husband, care abundantly for others and need to be supported in caring for themselves,” she explained.
“And we want to continue the work that Greg was doing with Nature Rx, encouraging people to get outside and explore the natural world as one method to improve their mental health,” she added.
With Donald A. Rakow, Eells co-authored Nature Rx: Improving College-Student Mental Health, which described the value of nature prescription programs and cited studies showing that people who spend time in nature have reduced stress, anxiety, and improved mood.
“Greg had a gift for making everyone feel special, like they were the most important person in the world,” said Michelle. “He was known for giving big bear hugs, so in naming the organization HUG, it perfectly captures Greg’s spirit and passions while incorporating his name.”
Students raise money through various in-person activities (and provide donors with Cupcake Buttons) on campus and in the community.
Since 2017 the campaigns have raised more than $6,000 for organizations including: the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County; the Village at Ithaca; The Learning Web; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness–Finger Lakes.
The symbol of the campaign is a Cupcake Button, because the fundraising takes place in the run-up to the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest hosted by The Sophie Fund. To enter this year’s cupcake contest, click here.
Do you have a child in college? These stressful times require parents to fully grasp the serious mental health challenges their students may face, and be equipped to provide support. Did you know that 95 percent of college students in a 2021 survey reported negative mental health symptoms because of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Even before Covid, rates of depression and anxiety were high among college students. In fact, many students carry suicidal thoughts. Sexual assault is prevalent among college students. Hazing violence as an initiation rite at fraternities and some student organizations is a serious problem.
All of these factors pose even greater risks for students who arrive on campus with a mental health or substance use disorder. College psychological counseling centers are typically overwhelmed by demands for appointments, and navigating community mental health services and insurance coverage can exacerbate stress. Failure to understand these realities of college student life today, and to help with issues that may arise, can lead to serious consequences.
The Sophie Fund provides this updated guide to help parents—especially those whose children are attending college in Ithaca—better understand the challenges and how to deal with them. Please email us with feedback or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nearly 200 people traveled a collective total of 337 miles in the rain and raised $11,692.32 on April 30 in the first-ever Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention to take place on the Cornell University campus.
Cornell Swimming & Diving Team
Throngs with ponchos, umbrellas, yellow galoshes, or just getting soaked in an April shower, including Cornell fraternity brothers, the Swimming & Diving, Tennis, and Volleyball teams, among others in the Cornell community, trekked the two-mile route from Corson-Mudd Hall, to the College of Veterinary Medicine, Feeney Way, and back again.
“By showing up today, you are sending the message that mental health is as real as physical health,” said chief organizer Cheyanne Scholl during an opening ceremony inside the Corson-Mudd atrium.
“You are sending the message that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. You are showing others that the issue of suicide cannot and will not be kept in the darkness. And thanks to you, we remain hopeful.”
More than 500 Out of the Darkness walks are held across the country each year by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to raise awareness, collect research funds, and send a message that “suicide is preventable and no one is alone.” In 2022, Overnight, Community, and Campus walks raised more than $21 million.
Among the participants in the Cornell walk were 14 campus fundraising teams, with Team Malibu raising the most funds, $1,450. Other top teams included SCL-TCOB, Cornell Vet, Alpha Gamma Rho, and The Statler Hotel. Skye Krehbiel was the top individual fundraiser with $1,210, and Michelle Moyal was second with $698.02.
Local businesses also supported the walk with donations, including Wegmans Panera Bread, Mirabito, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, Big Red Barbershop, and Cornell University.
Stacy Ayres and Crystal Howser of AFSP, and Co-Chair Cheyanne Scholl
In her remarks, Scholl explained that she has been involved with AFSP since 2017, when she participated in a walk at Iowa State University to honor a very close high school friend, Jack, a student there who had recently died by suicide. She was a first-year student at the time, and she recalled how “my life flipped on me” as she grieved Jack’s death.
“As a new college student experiencing such a tremendous loss, I was very lost and did not know where to turn,” she said. “The support and help I received from everyone around me was incredibly helpful. I learned that it is okay to reach out when you need help, you are not alone.”
Want to get involved? AFSP Greater Central New York will host a Greater Ithaca Walk on September 9, 2023. Click here to register or donate. To volunteer with AFSP, click here.
When Scholl moved to Ithaca from Iowa last summer to start a new job at Cornell, she spent part of the 16-hour car ride researching the local AFSP chapter determined to explore holding a Cornell walk. Backed by AFSP Greater Central New York, Scholl and a team of Cornell students and staff members including Scholl’s co-chair Daniel Richter spent months organizing the event on the sprawling campus.
Alpha Gamma Rho
Also speaking at the event was Kathleen Stathopoulos, whose son Yiannis ’24, a third-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, died by suicide last summer. He was president of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, and worked at an animal hospital. Stathopoulos shared that Yiannis was a mental health advocate who sought to reduce the high suicide rate among vet school students.
Stathopoulos said her son was known for his self-assurance. The 24-year-old was an avid body builder who loved to ski, golf, fly his drone, ride his motorcycle, and attend Mets games. “Yianni, above everything, loved his family,” she said. In the weeks before he died, he had rescued two kittens and a rabbit and nurtured them back to health. Yiannis’s death, she said, seemed to come out of the blue.
“Yianni was active, he was engaged, he was involved,” Stathopoulos recalled. “He was a person who was alive. He smiled an infectious smile. I had no idea that Yianni had any kind of suicidal thoughts. His family had no idea, the closest of his friends, his teachers and administrators, they had no idea. Everybody was shocked.”
She added: “When they came to Yianni’s memorial in Brooklyn, people said, ‘Yianni? Not Yianni. Yianni had it all. He was living the dream. How did this happen?’ But it did happen.”
Stathopoulos said that while Yiannis projected strength, he appears to have been very good at hiding behind that image. “How could a person who’s looked at like a Greek god, so confident, now say to people, ‘I’m having a problem. I feel like I might do something to myself.’ That would be shattering the image. Yianni had that image and protected it. If Yianni could have just realized it’s okay not to be okay. Mental illness is just like any other illness. It’s not a character flaw.”
Yiannis’s mother urged the students participating in the walk to seek mental health support if they are struggling. “If there’s anyone out there thinking that something’s wrong, if that bully in the brain is telling you you’re not good, fight it, tell somebody, tell a professional, tell a friend, tell a loved one. Talk to somebody. It will help.”
Another speaker was Scott MacLeod, whose daughter Sophie ’14, a senior in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, died by suicide in 2016 at age 23 while on a health leave of absence from Cornell. MacLeod described how his family and friends established The Sophie Fund in Ithaca to advocate for improved mental health support for young people, including students at Cornell and other local campuses.
Why We Walk
Some of the comments written on the Cornell walk’s “Why We Walk” banner:
“All our loved ones we have lost, and to those who keep fighting each day. You matter and are not alone. My Dad, my hero.”
“For Sam, my best friend.”
“For the Czymmek family and in the loving memory of Will. We are still here for you.”
“For Chris. You are loved!”
“For Greg and his family, and everyone who struggles.”
“For all the student athletes and those struggling.”
“For my mom’s struggle.”
“For my brother Kyle, and all those who suffer.”
“For my trans siblings, I love you.”
“For Dong Hao.”
“Never stop fighting!”
Laurie Conlon, Jessica Withers, and Co-Chair Daniel Richter
Cornell Women’s Volleyball Team
Carolina Baquerizo, Alayzha Turner-Rodgers, and Hannah Van Bergen of the College of Veterinary Medicine
Hope Walks Here
Have a Real Conversation
Hope Walks Here
Cornell walkers raised $11,692.32 for AFSP educational programming and research
If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.
Female students at Cornell University continue to report disturbing rates of sexual violence.
According to the “2021 Cornell Survey of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct,” 9.8 percent of participating undergraduate women—nearly one in 10—reported being victims of rape or attempted rape involving physical force or incapacitation since entering college. Extrapolated, the percentage means that potentially hundreds of Cornell’s 7,000-plus female undergrads were affected by such sexual violence.
Cornell University campus
The survey showed that 19.1 percent of female undergrads—nearly one in five—reported incidents of nonconsensual sexual touching involving physical force or incapacitation since entering college.
Among women graduate and professional students, the survey showed that 4.7 percent reported being victims of rape or attempted rape involving physical force or incapacitation since entering Cornell; 8.3 percent reported incidents of nonconsensual sexual touching.
Among Cornell female seniors participating in the survey, 30.3 percent—nearly one in three—reported being victims of rape or attempted rape (“experiencing nonconsensual penetration, attempted or completed”) or sexual battery (“nonconsensual sexual touching”) through physical force or incapacitation during their years in Ithaca.
Survey results showed that 88.2 percent of sexual assault offenders were male, and 82.1 percent were Cornell students. Among male undergraduate students, 5.8 percent reported being victims of nonconsensual sexual contact—assaults involving penetration or sexual touching—through physical force or incapacitation since entering college.
The highest percentages of surveyed sexual assault at Cornell involved transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming (TGQN) students; 25.7 percent reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact through physical force or incapacitation since entering Cornell.
Separately, also in compliance with New York State’s “Enough is Enough” law to combat collegiate sexual violence, Cornell’s Title IX office reported 205 incidents of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking in 2020; the figure represented the highest number of reports among all the colleges in New York State.
Another in an occasional series of articles about campus sexual violence. For more information, go to The Sophie Fund’s Sexual Assault Page.
For just the 2020-21 academic year, 3.1 percent of all surveyed students reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact, a significant drop from 6.3 percent in the previous survey conducted in 2019; of undergraduate women, 6.3 percent reported such sexual assaults in 2021 compared to 13.3 percent two years earlier.
The decreases in 2021 may be related to Covid-19 pandemic conditions, however; Cornell officials noted that most courses were held online, activities were halted or held remotely, and students were cautioned about socializing to reduce virus transmission.
The 2021 survey was distributed to a random sample of 6,000 students on the university’s Ithaca, Weill Cornell, and Cornell Tech campuses; 2,303, or 38 percent, provided responses.
Two-thirds (66.2 percent) of the “most serious” incidents of “nonconsensual sexual contact” involving undergraduate female victims occurred on Cornell or affiliated property—residence halls, fraternity chapter houses, fraternity annexes, and off-campus housing affiliated with another type of student club. Eighteen percent of such sexual assaults occurred at other off-campus houses, apartments, and private residences.
The 2021 survey defined penetration as “when one person puts a penis, finger, or object inside someone else’s vagina or anus.”
The survey defined nonconsensual sexual touching as: “kissing; touching someone’s breast, chest, crotch, groin, or buttocks; or grabbing, groping or rubbing against the other in a sexual way, even if the touching is over the other’s clothes.”
The survey defined physical force as “when someone was “holding you down with his or her body weight, pinning your arms, hitting or kicking you, or using or threatening to use a weapon against you.” The survey defined incapacitation as a student being “unable to consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, asleep or incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol.”
LEARN MORE: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
The Cornell administration responded to the survey results in a statement on November 29, 2021 signed by Ryan Lombardi, Vice President for Student and Campus Life; Mary Opperman, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer; and Jamal D. Lopez, Senior Director of Institutional Equity, Weill Cornell Medicine.
“The prevalence rates reported through Cornell’s Surveys of Sexual Assault and Related Misconduct have remained largely static since 2015, highlighting the need for strategic public health prevention efforts,” the statement said.
“Sexual assault, harassment and other forms of related misconduct are never acceptable. Working together, we believe that we can—and will—make Cornell a safer, more respectful environment for all community members.”
Survey results showed that 27.6 percent of the sexual assault offenders were “someone I just met at a social event”; 26.8 percent were current intimate partners; 22.6 percent were friends; and 18.2 percent were acquaintances.
The survey cited alcohol as a potential factor in sexual assaults at Cornell. In 55.6 percent of the cases reported by female undergraduate students, the perpetrator drank alcohol prior to the incident. The female victim drank alcohol in 57.4 percent of incidents.
According to the survey, 16.9 percent of undergraduate women, 24.8 percent of TGQN students, and 13.4 percent of Cornell students overall, reported experiencing domestic or dating violence since enrolling at Cornell. The survey showed that 5.1 percent of respondents reported experiencing stalking.
Nearly one in 10 victims of sexual assault said they did not report an incident to the Cornell or Ithaca police, Cornell’s Title IX office, or other campus and community resources. Despite the prevalence of sexual assault at Cornell, Cornell Police received only seven rape reports, all taking place in campus residential facilities, during 2021, according to the Cornell Police 2022 Annual Security Report.
During the 2020-21 academic year, nine formal sexual assault complaints were filed against undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with the Cornell Title IX office. One student was dismissed, two were suspended, one received a reprimand, two cases resulted in no-contact orders, and three of the accused were found not responsible.
Among the reasons given in the survey for not reporting: “not serious enough” (54.3 percent); “did not think talking about it would make me feel better” (40.8 percent); “other things to focus on” (37.6 percent); “felt partly responsible” (32.1 percent); “wanted to forget” (31.2 percent); “embarrassed or ashamed” (25.4 percent); “did not think anything would be done” (21.8 percent); “did not have proof” (21.5 percent).
The Cornell report on the student survey cited serious physical and psychological consequences of the sexual violence. The survey showed that 4.5 percent of victims suffered physical injuries as the result of their most serious sexual assault incident. Also, 37.6 percent reported feeling numb or detached; 30 percent feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; 27.6 percent experienced fearfulness or concerns about personal safety; and 19.8 percent had nightmares or trouble sleeping.
As for academic impacts, 36.5 percent of victims said they had difficulty concentrating on studies, assignments, or exams; 15.3 percent reported decreased class attendance, 8.6 percent considered leaving school or their program, and 2.1 percent took a leave of absence.
In general, Cornell’s sexual assault prevalence appears to track with data compiled through national surveys by the Association of American Universities (AAU).
According to AAU’s most recent survey, conducted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, 25.9 percent of undergraduate women reported being the victim of rape, attempted rape, or sexual battery through force or incapacitation since entering college; 12.8 percent reported the same experiences for that academic year.
The pre-pandemic 2019 survey at Cornell showed that 26.8 percent of undergraduate women reported being the victim of rape, attempted rape, or sexual battery through force or incapacitation since entering college; 13.3 percent reported the same experiences for that academic year.
Among undergraduates nationwide, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 26.4 percent of females, 6.8 percent of males, and 23.1 percent of TGQN college students have been sexually assaulted.
Cornell conducts the surveys in compliance with New York State “Enough is Enough” Education Law Article 129-B, adopted in 2015, which requires colleges to submit and publish data reports no less than every other year on incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
Cornell provides comprehensive information about its 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021 reports on its Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) webpage.
Ways for Cornell students to report sexual assault:
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 Whole Health, 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.”
DOWNLOAD Mental Health Support and Crisis Services PDF