New CAHSS scholarship program

Funding available to Family Therapy students

Kevin Lynch turned his family's experiences with mental health issues into a mission that led to creating the The Quell Foundation. Now, the Massachusetts-based nonprofit is setting up a new scholarship to benefit Family Therapy students in NSU's College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

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Left picture: Michael Rolleston, Honggang Yang, Kevin Lynch, Shelley Green, Valerie Judd, Monica Schroeder.

Lynch is a U.S. Navy veteran and healthcare professional. In 2006, his son Nick began an eight-year state prison sentence in Massachusetts at age 18. Nick Lynch had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and in prison he was frequently placed in isolation for various infractions. The frequent isolation, combined with a lack of mental health treatment and self-medication, caused him to develop clinical depression and acute anxiety. Upon release in 2012, Nick Lynch was referred to a therapist and unable to get a drug prescription. That sent him back to the path of illicit drugs in violation of his probation, leading to three more years in prison.

The stress of the situation led to Kevin Lynch also being diagnosed with clinical depression. He turned to nonprofit work and founded The Quell Foundation in 2015 to tackle the issue of mental health stigma.

“This is an underserved population that is not getting help,” Lynch said. “We want to help this entire population and lift the mask on mental health to remove the stigma.”

In its short history, Lynch said the foundation has raised funds through multiple fundraisers and will have by the end of May 2017 distributed $250,000 for scholarships around the country. The foundation is also working on short- and long-form documentaries about mental health. Lynch heard about NSU’s equine-assisted therapy from a friend and made contact.

“It’s a perfect match to give people scholarships for,” Lynch said.

The Department of Family Therapy’s equine-assisted therapy courses are run out of Stable Place, a 15-acre ranch in Davie near NSU's main campus. The scholarship will distribute $10,000 annually for five years.

“It’s about bringing more people into the mental health field,” said Professor Shelley Green, Ph.D., who founded Stable Place in 2009 with Valerie Judd.

Although the introductory equine course can be taken as an elective, the advanced course cannot and must be paid for entirely out of pocket by the student. The advanced class requires a minimum of eight students to register.

“This scholarship might bring in people who might not otherwise be able to afford the advanced class,” Green said.

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Lynch envisions a long-term relationship with all scholarship awardees, including an alumni association to allow people to give back for new and encourage others to apply for scholarships. It’s all in service of Lynch’s goal to remove the stigma.

“Mental health is not relegated to the people in the streets, or in hospitals, or in prisons,” he said.

Green said the scholarship is the first in the equine-assisted therapy program’s history and hopes that it will lead to more funding and recognition in the future. The details should be worked out by July to announce in August at new student orientation.

“Our current students are very enthusiastic,” Green said. “We hope to take three to four master’s students next year for internship hours.”