BY JOE RAGUSA KENTUCKY
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Ann Strand’s husband Michael served in the military for more than two decades— and she says he also suffered from severe mental illness.
“He was that old-school soldier we refer to: You do not talk about your problems ever, you never let them get in your record, you do not go and tell somebody, ‘I have a problem’.”
Michael took his own life in January 2013 and Ann has been advocating for better mental health services ever since.
That’s why she supports a bill to setup a mental health first aid training program in Kentucky which would help first responders, police, school personnel and other community groups detect the signs of mental illness.
“He was exposed to so many people that if they had this type of information, I believe my life would be dramatically different today,” Strand said.
Republican representative Kim Moser sponsors the bill and says its modeled after similar programs in other states, including Colorado.
“This legislation is really so important. We really intend to hit this head on and discuss mental health issues, destigmatize mental health and allow folks to get care early,” Moser said.
She says the training isn’t meant to be a substitute for actual counseling or medical care— but it will help people identify when they see someone who may need that type of care.
Commissioner Wendy Morris of the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities said this kind of training is critical to helping Kentucky deal with a number of issues.
“Early intervention and treatment can significantly improve life trajectories,” Morris said. “When there is a lag from the onset of symptoms until people get treatment, we see an increased rate of suicide, school dropouts, homelessness, justice system involvement, unemployment. There is great personal and social cost to these lags in treatment.”
Moser plans to file the bill for consideration during next year’s legislative session.