On Saturday, May 6, Kevin Lynch, President and CEO of The Quell Foundation, was the commencement speaker at Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development graduation ceremony. Lynch challenged the nearly 14,000 people in attendance to stand up if they had a friend, relative or loved one that struggled with mental illness. “Would you sit with them in the dark? Would you stand up and stand beside them so they could feel your support?” That call-to-action, never before heard on a college campus, led the audience to stand in solidarity as advocates for supporting those struggling with mental illness.
Diagnosed with depression in 2012, Lynch works to combat the stigma associated with mental illness. The Quell Foundation educates communities about issues and concerns surrounding mental health, promoting open, judgment-free dialogue.
“I asked these graduates and their guests to stand up as a way to demonstrate that each one of us knows someone, or is someone, affected by mental illness. I wanted the graduates to see how widespread this challenge is, and help them appreciate how deeply connected they are to crushing the stigma,” said Lynch.
Lynch told the graduates, “I am confident your generation will remove the stigma of mental health…You have grown up standing up for what is right – inclusion and equality…You are the next generation to not only navigate change, but make change happen.”
Lynch, an alumni of Penn State with a masters in health administration, was recognized by Dr. Ann C. Crowder, Dean of College of Health and Human Development, as “on a mission to end the social stigma of mental illness.”
Lynch’s speech can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/user12034463/psucommencement2017quell.