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Supporting Students to Improve Community Mental Health and Well-Being

University News | 01.25.21

Adler University Trustee Pamela Richardson Gives Major Gift for Vancouver Scholarships in honour of her son Dash.

For the next three years, five Adler University students will receive a continuing scholarship, thanks to a generous donation from Trustee Pamela Richardson and her husband, David. The Dash Richardson Scholarship was awarded in September 2020 to five students in the Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program at the Vancouver Campus. Each award recipient will receive $30,000 over a 3-year period in honour of Pamela’s son Dash.

The Richardsons live in Vancouver, BC, where they support philanthropic enterprises through their family foundation focusing on the arts and mental health. Pamela Richardson joined the Adler University Board of Trustees in 2019.

“I am very excited to be a part of Adler University, especially because of its engagement in communities,” she said. “I believe in the philosophy that healthy communities are created when everyone is engaged in the process.”

Richardson wants to help dispel the stigma around mental health and support students working with individuals and communities to improve health and well-being. In 2006, she published A Kidnapped Mind, which tells the story of her personal experience with Parental Alienation Syndrome.

“When I was going through the parental alienation years, I sought out a psychologist who happened to be an Adlerian, Dr. Robert Armstrong in Vancouver,” she said, adding that she appreciates the community mindset that Dr. Armstrong and other Adlerian psychologists bring to therapy. “Dr. Armstrong worked with me and my family for many years. He was very instrumental in looking after our mental health through all those years.”

Working with Communities to Advance Social Justice

Carly McDonell

The five recipients of the Dash Richardson scholarship enrolled in the Adler Psy.D. program in Fall 2020. They include Carly McDonell who wants to be a psychologist and increase access to mental health care for under-served populations. McDonnell is interested in forensics and youth justice. She aspires to work with individuals, especially youth, who have encountered the legal system.

“I have always aimed to act as a voice for individuals who have not been afforded the opportunity to speak for themselves,” McDonell said. “Adler University is allowing me to do that.”

When Richardson learned about Adler University, she was drawn to the social justice practicum. Through these internships, students work with organizations to promote community health and social justice.

For her practicum, McDonell is working with the B.C. Family Justice Innovation Lab on their Youth Voices initiative. She helps increase public education and awareness to enact structural change within B.C.’s legal system. The program aims to ensure youth experiencing parental separation or divorce have a voice in court.

McDonell plans to continue to work with both youth and adults impacted by the justice system after graduation as a clinical psychologist in Canada.

“Throughout my studies, I have realized the influence that an individual’s environment has on them and how the justice system often acts as a revolving door for offenders,” McDonell said.

She looks toward the future and the changes she can help make as a social justice advocate and socially responsible practitioner.

Helping Students Make a Difference – Especially During a Pandemic

“Scholarships can make or break the ability for a student to actually attend or even finish their degree,” Richardson said. “Then you throw in COVID-19, where a lot of students would be working in the service industry and now that has been disrupted. So, scholarships are more essential now than ever.”

In addition to the scholarship gifts, Richardson has also been a strong supporter of the Emergency Response Scholarship Fund, set up to help support students facing financial challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richardson and many others have stepped up to help students during this difficult time.

As a clinical psychology student, McDonell agrees that it is critical to support students who are and will be working in the mental health field.

“Mental health is incredibly under-represented in society, and there is a lot of stigma around it,” McDonell said. “I thank our Adler University donors who are acting as the advocates we desperately need, especially now. With the ongoing pandemic, the need for mental health services is at an all-time high. We need as many people as possible, advocating for this field and the importance of mental health.”


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