WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A driving force in the mental health community is being remembered by advocates across the state.
Eric Harkness was part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at the local, state, and national levels. It’s why his death by suicide comes as a shock to all who knew him.
They tell us no one knew Eric was struggling at that level. They say he was strong for others, hundreds of others.
Governor Laura Kelly called him a tireless advocate for Kansas, and advocates say it was a devastating discovery.
“I couldn’t, I could not believe it to be true,” said Sherrie Vaughn, NAMI Kansas Executive Director.
“Numbness, numbness really,” said Nancy Ross, NAMI Wichita.
“Shock, utter shock,” said Terry Larson, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
They say Harkness was funny, bright, and a listener. He was the current NAMI Kansas Board President and also served as the President of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.
Harkness was a pharmacist by profession and as passionate about mental health.
“Eric did so much for everybody else, all the while having his own issues,” said Larson.
“He was always available to talk to someone to help them see maybe a plan forward, or to just listen,” said Ross.
Nancy Ross with NAMI Wichita says you never know who may be hurting.
“We all have our personal struggles,” said Ross.
And all the advocates agree its why it’s important to let others know, if you’re down.
“Let others come around you, we want, we want to do that,” said Vaughn.
Harkness was passionate about NAMI events, so his family and NAMI have started the Eric Harkness NAMI Kansas Scholarship, to help those who can’t afford to attend them.
There are also resources if you or someone you know are in crisis.
The NAMI helpline is 1-800-950-6264. Sedgwick County has resources that can be found at SedgwickCounty.org. The Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another resource that welcomes all in pain.