Family donates $1 million to develop youth mental health resources | New
The family of a Palo Alto man who died by suicide in October 2021 donated $1 million to establish a scholarship fund at Santa Clara University with a specific purpose: to advance care mental health centers for young adults by increasing the number of trained psychologists. and mental health educators and by funding mental health research in perpetuity.
Tone Lee, 22, was the kind of young man who was always interested in helping others, his father said. He sought to help his classmates at Gunn High School after three of his friends died by suicide, and he spoke openly about his own struggles to encourage others to come forward when they were unwell. He earned a Certified Behavioral Technician certificate and has worked with families of people with autism and developmental disabilities. He raised money to buy sleeping bags for the homeless in San Jose, and he adopted a three-legged dog that no one else seemed to want, his father recalled.
As Lee’s family grappled with their profound loss over the past six months, they discussed how to continue Lee’s legacy. They decided to move forward by contributing something positive to the community that would reflect his dedication to helping others, his father said.
“There are two paths. One path is that you are helpless, you deny the facts. The other path is that you want to learn something so that another family in the same situation suffers less. I chose the latter “, did he declare.
“We could have chosen a different path – isolating ourselves from the community – but even when he was suffering, as he did with his mental health issue, he still helped people. There’s no reason why I can’t do more than before. We shouldn’t lose the spirit of what he wanted to do as long as we live,” his father said.
The Lee family’s donation, which was announced April 22, established three scholarships at Santa Clara University’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology: the Tone Yao Lee Education Scholarship Fund, the Tone Yao Lee Counseling Psychology Fund and the Tone Yao Lee Mental Health Research Fund.
Lee graduated from college with a major in finance from the Leavey School of Business. He was accepted into Leavey’s “4+1” master’s program for graduate study and was offered back-to-back internships at high-tech companies. But his personal struggles and work with his therapist inspired him to want to be an educator or a psychologist and work with children, his father told this news agency.
When Lee was diagnosed with depression, his family sought counseling for their son, but they found a shortage of psychologists available for young adults. It took over a month to find someone in the Palo Alto area and the waiting lists were long.
“There are more people in need than resources available,” Lee’s father said.
Young adults’ mental health issues are different from those of adults because their brains are still developing, her father said. Therapists who can treat young adults are particularly important for this reason, as is research into youth mental health, he added.
The Tone Yao Lee Fellowships could meet some of these needs by producing more psychologists and counselors.
While most of the donation will remain in the form of seed capital to allow the funds to grow, some scholarships will be available for students starting in the 2022-2023 school year. Lee’s father said the funds are open to other contributions, and he hopes the community will see the value of the scholarships and donate to the funds.
“I look for long-term solutions that generate more resources for the community and improve the community. Mental health is a real problem. It happens to young people, no matter where they come from,” he said.
“If we try to understand it, produce more education, collectively we will have more benefits for the community. If we tune it out, ignore it and have the stigma, it will never improve the problem. We will only see the suffering,” he said.
More information about the Tone Yao Lee Scholarship Fund can be found at scu.edu/ecp. Donation information is available at scu.edu/ecp/alumni/give.