Eighteen community and state mental health stakeholders — including representatives from the Suicide Prevention Center of New York, the City of Ithaca and Cornell Minds Matter — adopted “The Watershed Declaration,” which pledges to renew the “commitment to suicide prevention” during a meeting Monday.
The meeting, which took place at The Watershed, was initiated by The Sophie Fund, a donor advised fund created in honor of Sophie Hack MacLeod ’14 who died by suicide last year while on medical leave. The organization’s main goal is to help “enhance mental health initiatives aiding young people in Ithaca,” according to their website.
While the original purpose of the meeting was to share some of the organization’s initiatives, the declaration was met with so much enthusiasm that the group decided to adopt it as a way of reenergizing their suicide-prevention efforts, Scott MacLeod, father of Sophie and donor advisor of The Sophie Fund, told The Sun.
“It’s very powerful to have that declaration and actual support from a wide variety of organizations in one place and in one moment,” Macleod said. “It shows the community at large, yes, your community cares about this issue and yes, we are working on this issue. It’s one thing to work on things, it’s another thing to show solidarity behind it.”
Lee-Ellen Marvin, executive director of the Suicide and Prevention Crisis Service in Ithaca, was also present at the meeting.
“My agency has been on this task for 48 years, so it feels good to have other people saying we commit to making this better,” Marvin said.
In addition to supporting the declaration, the meeting attendees also announced plans to produce a Tompkins County suicide coalition by June.
“A declaration is one thing, that’s great, but building a coalition is actually doing work on the ground,” MacLeod said.
Marvin added that she hopes the declaration will not only impact the organizations at the meeting but send a message to a wider audience that “everyone [should] take suicide seriously and that begins with ourselves.”
MacLeod echoed Marvin’s sentiments and also hopes that the declaration will continue sending a message of hope to anyone dealing with mental health concerns.
“As somebody who is very passionate about this because of our own tragedy, I can tell you how the heart was lifted by seeing this kind of thing,” MacLeod said. “I think it’s a good sign to the vulnerable people in our community and someone who might be experiencing depression or anxiety, that there is hope. People do care. We are supporting you, and let’s fight this. We’re not by any means giving up on anybody.”
Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with counselors from Cornell Health by calling 607-255-5155. Students may speak with a peer counselor by calling EARS at 607-255-3277. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at 607-255-2673. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.