States

States of Mind, a literary online and print magazine sponsored by the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, is gearing up and getting ready to publish its summer issue. 

The purpose of the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, located on South Geneva Street, is to address mental health needs in Ithaca and Tompkins County. They allocate various services regarding mental health— whether that be teen support groups, connecting people to therapists or other mental health professionals, educating community members on aspects of mental health and mental illness or providing healthy ways to help people express themselves and their feelings. States of Mind falls under the category of the latter.

According to its website, States of Mind “aims to give voice to those that are often silenced, and thus challenge misconceptions regarding mental health.” By publishing poetry, personal essays, feature stories and artwork surrounding mental health, the magazine provides an outlet for people who have struggled with mental health to share their own experiences, stories and feelings in various interpretive and creative forms. 

“It’s one thing for us to read about things from the perspective of a person who has studied mental health— it’s another much more profound thing to see how people have struggled with it. States of Mind provides a platform for that,” said Jacob Parker Carver, the community health educator at the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County. 

Erika Walsh, a rising senior at Ithaca College, recently had a poem published with States of Mind entitled “advice fr how to make yr depression stop calling u ovr.” The poem itself is a how-to list that personifies depression— giving simplified and lyrically-styled advice on how best to deal with depression and mental illness.

“I started out writing poetry from a young age and wrote a lot of poems about my personal experiences related to mental health in high school,” said Walsh regarding writing about mental health. “Using a more objective narrative point of view and paying close attention to craft helps me to be more self-aware and reflective, and really learn and discover things about myself through my writing.”

Writing about mental health can be a cathartic experience— taking the time to reflect and understand mental health serves as an extremely effective coping technique. Co-editor-in-chief of States of Mind and recent Ithaca College graduate Marisa Wherry agrees: “Writing and mental health go very well together. Writing has always helped me think through what I’m going through when I’m going through tough times, both while I’m going through it and afterwards. It helps me reflect on how I felt and why I felt that way.” 

Past themes of issues of States of Mind have included “harmony,” “synergy,” “beginnings” and “efflorescence,” among others. The theme of the most recent issue is “ripple,” which Wherry says is different from what they’ve done in terms of themes before. “We wanted it to have an active sensibility— with everything going on right now, it’s important to feel active within yourself and the world around you and take reign over your mental health,” said Wherry.

States of Mind has been around since the early 1980s. Previously run by Emily Nowels, the States of Mind baton was passed to Parker Carver. In 2016, Wherry started working for States of Mind as co-editor-in-chief with Hakeem Hopper-Collins, another recent graduate of Ithaca College. With the assistance of Barbara Adams, the director of the internship program in writing and publishing at Ithaca College and Parker Carver, Wherry and Hopper-Collins transformed States of Mind into a student-run magazine. 

While the magazine is run by Ithaca College students, the focus on mental health in the Tompkins County community is still present— with contributing writers of all ages from all over Ithaca. “We can access a whole new range of skills, talent, and time resources,” says Parker Carver about working with Ithaca College students. “I appreciate that there’s a whole new energy that comes along with it. That being said, we want all voices to be heard. If we’re just looking at a specific population of people facing mental health challenges, we aren’t really facing our goals. We want people from all different backgrounds, age groups and walks of life to contribute.”

The next issue of States of Mind is set to be released mid-June. To learn more about the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County and view past issues of States of Mind, please visit mhaedu.org. • 

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