Support NAMI–Finger Lakes!

Welcome to The Sophie Fund’s 2022 Cupcake Button fundraiser! Each October, we work alongside student organizations to raise monies for a local nonprofit focused on community wellbeing.

This year’s campaign is collecting funds for the Finger Lakes affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

NAMI-Finger Lakes provides free support, education, and advocacy for people closest to those living with mental health conditions. An organization slogan is, “With NAMI Finger Lakes, you are not alone.”

100 percent of the donations to the 2022 Cupcake Button campaign will go to NAMI-Finger Lakes.

Among its activities, NAMI Finger Lakes runs a HELP Line at 607-273-2462. Experienced volunteers answer calls for support and mental health resources with empathy and understanding.

NAMI Finger Lakes offers a variety of programs to support and educate community members concerning mental health.

The Family-to-Family Education program is designed to help improve the coping and problem-solving skills of family members, significant others, and friends of people with mental health conditions.

Other programs include peer-led family support groups and education sessions for those providing care for youth with mental health symptoms. NAMI Finger Lakes also engages in outreach such as talks to local groups and connecting with employers about workforce mental health.

In addition, NAMI Finger Lakes advocates for public policies for improving mental health at the local and state levels.

Click here for more information about NAMI-Finger Lakes.

This year’s Cupcake Button campaign is supported by many student organizations, including Cornell University’s Cornell Minds Matter, Alpha Phi Omega–Gamma Chapter, Reflect at Cornell, Phi Sigma Pi, Pre-Professional Association Toward Careers in Health (PATCH), Cornell Circle K, and Cornel Health International.

Students raise money through various in-person activities (and provide donors with Cupcake Buttons) on campus and in the community. The campaigns have raised more than $5,000 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, and The Learning Web.

The symbol of the campaign is a Cupcake Button, because the fundraising takes place in the runup to the Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest hosted by The Sophie Fund. To enter this year’s cupcake contest, go to: https://thesophiefund.org/cupcake-contest/.

To donate directly to NAMI Finger Lakes, click here.

For more information about The Sophie Fund, go to:www.thesophiefund.org.

A Month for Kindness

Kindness is Coming to Tompkins County in October! United in Kindness is a diverse series of events organized by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force and aligned with National Bullying Prevention Month.

The events range from a student contest promoting kindness, a free showing of the film Wonder at Cinemapolis, and Stories in the Park for under-6s, to expert presentations on keeping kids safe on social media and dealing with domestic violence experiences.

The Student Kindness and Creativity Contest, sponsored by United Way of Tompkins County, invites local K-12 students to enter written word, visual art, or video submissions with a deadline of October 10.

The contest will be judged by United Way’s Youth and Philanthropy Program students. Prizes will be awarded and all entries will be featured at a Gallery Event at United Way’s headquarters at 313 N Aurora Street on October 28 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Contest information available at: www.uwtc.org/unitedinkindness.

“United Way is happy to support this year’s contest and the United In Kindness series because of the connection to youth and mental health, two key areas supported by our organization,” said Gregg Houck, United Way’s Director of Community Impact.

“In a time of so much division, having the opportunity to promote unity in our shared humanity and the importance of being kind to one another through this contest and gallery event is so meaningful. United Way looks forward to sharing these student creations with the community.”

The series was organized by the Bullying Prevention Task Force’s Brandi Remington, Youth Development Coordinator at TST BOCES.

“This series brings kindness back to the forefront as our community continues to heal from the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Remington. “National Bullying Prevention Month aims to bring awareness to the very serious issue of bullying in our schools and community. We recognize the problem, just as we recognize that one of the solutions is to celebrate empathy, inclusion, and connectedness. We are excited to bring attention to all of the great work being done in Tompkins County to build a community united in kindness.”

Student Kindness and Creativity Contest 9/19 through 10/10

Sponsored by United Way of Tompkins County

Tompkins County K-12 students can enter their written word, visual art, or video submissions until 10/10. All entries will be featured at a

Gallery Event @ United Way 313 N Aurora Street on 10/28 4-7 pm.

We’ve Got Your Back 10/1 @ 12-3 p.m.

Mental Health Association Peer Outreach Center @ Center Ithaca

Live music, activities, finger foods, speakers and more! Learn how we can support one another by stepping in and calling out bullying behaviors.

Free Hugs @ Apple Harvest Festival 10/1 @ 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

In and Around the Ithaca Commons

Free Hugs Ithaca and Be Kind Ithaca team up to give away t-shirts and iconic Be Kind hearts—and actual hugs—to dozens of lucky Apple Fest attendees.

Mothering Through Domestic Violence 10/5 @ 12 Noon–1 p.m.

Online via Zoom—Register at: https://tinyurl.com/October5event

Join the Coalition for Families and Lyn Staack from the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County for a community presentation. Understand the challenges faced by people who grew up in homes where there was domestic violence and how it may impact their adult relationships and parenting.

Screening of Wonder 10/11 @ 7-9 p.m.

@ Cinemapolis—Free Admission sponsored by Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca and The Sophie Fund

Watch an uplifting film for all ages about empathy and acceptance telling the story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade to attend mainstream elementary school for the first time.

7th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest 10/15 @ 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Bernie Milton Pavilion, submissions from 10–11:30 am; Info on how to enter at: www.thesophiefund.org/cupcake-contest

Stories in the Park 10/18 & 10/22 @ 11:30 a.m.–12 Noon

Dewitt Park, or Tompkins County Public Library if raining  

Children 6 and under and their families will be delighted by a selection of stories based on the themes of kindness, inclusivity, and diversity.

Digital Intelligence and Well-Being for Parents 10/19 @ 12 Noon–1 p.m.

Online via Zoom—Register at: https://tinyurl.com/KindnessSocialMediaSymposium

Join a symposium for parents about online safety for their children presented by social media expert Chris Vollum.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters Match Event 10/21 @ 4-7 p.m.

Event open to Big Brothers, Big Sisters participants only

Participants will carve pumpkins and decorate cookies while they share stories about people in their life who demonstrate and embody kindness. To learn more about how you can be a part of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, go to: www.bbbsithaca.org.

For more details about United in Kindness events, go to: https://thesophiefund.org/bullying/

Parent’s Guide to College Student Mental Health

Dear Parents: Sending kids off to college is an exciting experience. Naturally, our focus is on the wonderful opportunities they will have, as we look with pride upon their promising passage into adulthood. But these stressful times require parents to also fully grasp the serious mental health challenges their students may face, and be equipped to provide support.

What do parents need to know?

Though some may hide or downplay it, rates of depression and anxiety are high among college students. 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 conditions pose greater risks for students who arrive on campus already with a mental health disorder.

College psychological counseling centers are typically overwhelmed by demands for appointments, and navigating community mental health services and insurance coverage can exacerbate the stress.

In short, student mental health can be a complicated matter, and failing to deal with it adequately can lead to serious consequences.

The Sophie Fund has updated a guide to help parents—especially those whose children are attending college in Ithaca—better understand the challenges:

DOWNLOAD: A Parent’s Guide to College Student Mental Health (PDF)

New Step Toward “Zero Suicide” in Tompkins County

Top healthcare leaders in Tompkins County have agreed to form a steering committee to drive local implementation of the Zero Suicide Model, an emerging standard designed to save lives by closing gaps in the suicide care offered by and across healthcare providers.

Zero Suicide roundtable participants, July 20

The move came during “Zero Suicide Roundtable: A Discussion on Best Practices in Suicide Prevention with Tompkins County Healthcare Leaders,” hosted on July 20 at the Statler Hotel by The Sophie Fund and Tompkins County Mental Health Services.

The two-hour roundtable was moderated by Jenna Heise, director of Suicide Prevention Implementation at the Office of Mental Health’s Suicide Prevention Center of New York.

The 13 roundtable participants represented Cayuga Medical Center, Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, Tompkins County Health Department, Tompkins County Mental Health Services, Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, Cornell University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and The Sophie Fund.

The leaders’ agreement is a step toward fulfilling Goal 2 of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, adopted last February, which calls for “quality improvement for suicide care in all Tompkins County healthcare and behavioral health settings.”

The strategic plan’s Objective 2.3 calls for the formation of a “Zero Suicide Work Group comprised of leading health and mental health providers to share ideas, experiences, and challenges, and lead collaborative, sustainable efforts to implement the Zero Suicide Model throughout Tompkins County.”

Harmony Ayers-Friedlander, deputy commissioner of Tompkins County Mental Health Services, introduced Heise to the gathering “as we renew our commitment to the implementation of the Zero Suicide Model in our community, within, and across, our healthcare settings.” She noted that the county’s Suicide Prevention Coalition was launched exactly five years earlier with the vision of “a community where no lives are lost to suicide.”

Addressing the healthcare leaders, Ayers-Friedlander added:

“Your presence here today serves as a reminder of just how important this work is. Zero Suicide works. Because it gives us hope that we can make a difference, direction through a systems-based framework when faced with the complexity of human suffering, and real tools that help us at each step of the way. Today is a time to evaluate where we are individually as institutions and collectively as a community in preventing suicide through this model.”

Jenna Heise, director of New York State’s Suicide Prevention Implementation, moderates a Zero Suicide leadership roundtable

Heise opened the roundtable with a brief overview of the Zero Suicide Model and then walked participants through a discussion on the model’s seven elements: leadership, training, screening and assessment, care planning, treatment, transition of care, and quality improvement.

“The foundational belief of Zero Suicide is that individuals in our care, on our watch, need not die by suicide, and that suicide is actually preventable for those in care,” Heise said. “The way that happens is that suicide prevention and suicide care become a core priority for health and behavioral health. We have not done a good job of that, frankly.”

“We need to have that leadership commitment,” Heise said. Under the model, she explained, a leadership commitment creates a “just culture” for suicide care that relies on systemic use of best practices rather than leaving suicide prevention to individual health workers.

“It has to be looked at as a systems problem,” she said. “For too long, we have left it to the crisis team or to one outstanding individual clinician or social worker, and our systems, or the newest person, the greenest person straight out of school, who had no schooling in suicide.”

Citing examples of successful implementation of Zero Suicide, such as in the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, Heise added: “It is an aspirational goal but it is quite attainable. There are folks that have done this work and committed to it, and followed this framework in implementing the seven elements, and they have shown that you could significantly reduce the suicides, by rate and number, within your healthcare organization.”

Heise commended Tompkins County’s approach to creating a “safer suicide community, wrapped around health and behavioral healthcare, including partners on board like the health department, behavioral health, large health systems, universities, higher ed, and so forth. That’s where you start to really see impact, everybody speaking the same language, using the same tools, the same best practices, the same framework. This is very exciting.”

Participants shared their experiences with various aspects of suicide prevention measures within their systems. They noted the importance of cross-system coordination and integration for suicide care, the challenge of staffing, and a desire for greater suicide-specific training. Several participants noted their continuous quality improvement efforts in suicide care but said they did not follow the Zero Suicide Model per se.

The Sophie Fund provided participants with a packet of materials about the Zero Suicide Model and previous suicide prevention efforts that have been undertaken in Tompkins County. The packet included the following items:

Zero Suicide Organizational Self-Study

Transforming Systems for Safer Care

Quick Start Guide to Getting Started with Zero Suicide

“Vital Signs: Suicide rising across the US,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Changes in Suicide Rates United States, 2018–2019,” MMWR, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sentinel Event Alert Issue 56: Detecting and treating suicide ideation in all settings, The Joint Commission

National Patient Safety Goal for suicide prevention, The Joint Commission

Three-Year Strategic Plan 2022-2025, Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition

Resolution 2018-155, Suicide Prevention Coalition Zero Suicide Initiative, Tompkins County Legislature

The Watershed Declaration

Mental Health Support and Crisis Services Tompkins County, The Sophie Fund

“Health Care Contacts in the Year Before Suicide Death,” Journal of General Internal Medicine, by Brian K. Ahmedani, et al.

“Suicide Prevention: An Emerging Priority For Health Care,” Health Affairs, by Michael F. Hogan and Julie Goldstein Grumet

The roundtable was the fifth and final session of a Zero Suicide initiative launched by The Sophie Fund last November. Previous events included:

 “Call to Action: Suicide Prevention in Healthcare,” an expert briefing on the Zero Suicide Model for Tompkins County healthcare leaders, on November 16 by Jenna Heise, Director of Suicide Prevention Implementation at the Suicide Prevention Center of New York.

“Understanding, Identifying, and Addressing Suicide Risk: A Clinical Primer for Behavioral Health Providers,” on March 9 by The Wellness Institute

“Implementation of Zero Suicide,” a suicide prevention presentation for front line managers, on March 24 by Tammy Weppelman, State Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

“Zero Suicide: Best Practices for Primary Care,” on June 16 by Virna Little, Co-Founder and CEO of Concert Health.

If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 (or 1-800-273-8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

This Close to Happy

Daphne Merkin, author of This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression, will be the featured guest speaker at a “Readings on Mental Health” event on Sunday, November 19 sponsored by the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County and hosted by Buffalo Street Books.

Daphne-Merkin-Argos-Social

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Kaag called Merkin’s 2017 memoir “one of the most accurate, and therefore most harrowing, accounts of depression to be written in the last century… Ms. Merkin speaks candidly and beautifully about aspects of the human condition that usually remain pointedly silent.”

Andrew Solomon, reviewing This Close to Happy for the New York Times, wrote: “It is standard fare to say that books on depression are brave, but this one actually is. For all its highly personal focus, it is an important addition to the literature of mental illness.”

Merkin is also the author of Enchantment, Dreaming of Hitler and The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags. A former staff writer at the New Yorker, she has also written for the New York Times, Elle, Bookforum, Departures, Travel + Leisure, W, Vogue, Tablet Magazine, and other publications. She has taught writing at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount College, and Hunter College.

Merkin’s appearance is part of “Readings on Mental Health,” a series featuring authors of books on mental health topics made possible by a grant from The Sophie Fund.

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