One of the many stigmas that we care deeply about changing at Two Chairs, is that you have to look a certain way or fit a certain mold to experience mental illness. Mental health issues do not discriminate.
Kevin Lynch is passionate about moving the needle on this conversation as well. In fact, he founded The Quell Foundation to promote open, judgment-free dialogue to normalize mental health, and even started a storytelling series called Lift the Mask. They currently provide scholarships to mental health care professionals and increase access to care in myriad ways.
What led Kevin to start The Quell Foundation?
Kevin’s career as a public servant began as a twelve-year veteran of the United States Naval Submarine Force, where he worked onboard many nuclear-powered vessels. After an unfortunate injury ended his military career, Kevin chose the healthcare sector to continue his commitment to caring for and fighting for others in their time of need.
After he served his country, Kevin invested more than 16 years in the private sector, and worked closely with hospital systems, which brought him even closer to the provider community and the challenges they face in building future talent in the mental health profession.
In 2015, Kevin’s vision for The Quell Foundation was actualized, and he was on a mission to reduce the number of suicides, overdoses, and incarcerations of people with mental health illness.
“I formed The Quell Foundation because I believe we have the power to change the conversations about mental health and ignite true change that will benefit people all across our country. Plus, this is even bigger than the millions suffering from a mental health condition, because we must also work to assist the families and care support systems that are doing their best to help the people they love.”
Since June 2016, The Foundation has distributed over one million dollars to students attending nearly 400 universities and colleges in 47 different states across the country. Their work is far from finished, and we’re excited to learn more from Kevin himself about their vision for a brighter future.
A Conversation with Kevin Lynch, President and CEO of The Quell Foundation
Can you share about some pivotal moments that changed the way you think about mental health?
I served twelve years with the U.S. Naval Submarine Force, and enjoyed a fulfilling seventeen-year career in the healthcare sector. But after a family tragedy left me reeling, I made a call to the VA suicide hotline. I considered myself a pretty successful person, even sort of a tough guy, but at that moment, I felt I had nothing to look forward to. My experiences with the mental healthcare system, and the people I met throughout this life-changing event, drove me to establish The Quell Foundation. My hope is to create a pipeline of mental healthcare advocates in a stigma-free world.
How do you view the foundation’s role in the mental health space?
It’s no secret, there’s a mental health professional workforce shortage in our country. Long wait times, an aging provider population, and clinician burnout are putting added stress on an already overstressed profession. The Quell Foundation works to address this shortage by investing in the next generation of professionals through academic scholarships for students enrolled in an accredited mental health-related degree program. We also support those who have the courage to lift their masks while pursuing higher education. We distribute awards to scholars who have a mental health diagnosis or have lost a loved one to suicide.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue therapy for the first time?
Be persistent. Much like dating or buying a car, finding the right therapist to address your specific needs and personality can take time. Try not to get discouraged, because once you’ve found the right fit for you, the benefits of therapy quickly outweigh the frustrations you may have initially experienced.
As you know, mental health is difficult for many people to talk about, and the stigma still keeps a lot of people from getting the care they need. How do you envision the conversation evolving over time?
I envision a stigma-free generation not afraid to talk about mental illness. Education is the key to understanding, supporting, and creating awareness of the mental health issues millions are facing today. I am 6’4’ and 235lbs. I do not fit the stereotype many people have formulated about what someone with a mental health diagnosis looks like. When I share openly about my challenges, it opens the door for others to come through. Few conversations I have do not eventually come around to mental health and the misconceptions and stigmas around the significant population of people who live daily with the challenges that come with having a diagnosis. I’ve yet to meet someone that does not have first hand lived experience.
One of our most impactful ways to reach people is through our educational documentary program. We’re currently gearing up for the next chapter in our groundbreaking documentary series, “Lift the Mask.” Through vivid storytelling, we’re creating a film to provide insight into the lives and experiences of first responders, their families, and the lives they touch through their service.
Loved hearing more about you, and what’s in store for The Quell Foundation. Thanks for chatting!
Of course! Organizations that continue to expand and destigmatize how we view therapy and mental health services are crucial to the future of mental healthcare, and that’s why Two Chairs’ mission is something that makes us sit up in our Scandanavian sofas and pay attention.