What led you to be so open about your mental health journey and form The Quell Foundation?
After serving 12 years with the U.S. Naval Submarine Force and enjoying a fulfilling career in the healthcare sector, I made my first call to the VA suicide hotline after a family tragedy left me reeling. I considered myself a pretty successful person, even sort of a tough guy, but at that moment, I felt that I had nothing. My experiences with the mental health care system and the people I met throughout this life-changing event drove me to create The Quell Foundation with the hopes of creating a pipeline of mental health care advocates in a stigma-free world.
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. Once you’ve found the right fit for you, the benefits of therapy quickly outweigh the frustrations you may have initially experienced.
What are some advancements that The Quell Foundation is making in the mental health circuit?
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 stress on the workforce of an already overstressed profession. The 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.
How do you hope to continue to use your organization to raise awareness and break down the stigma surrounding mental illness?
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. One of our most impactful ways to reach people is through our 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.
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