Kan. governor responds to death of state mental health advocate

TOPEKA, Kan. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Tuesday issued a statement regarding the death of "a longtime advocate for the mental health community in (the state.)"

Kelly's office says Eric Harkness died by suicide this past weekend.

“I’m deeply saddened to hear of Eric’s passing. He was a tireless advocate for the Kansas mental health community,” a statement from Kelly says. “He touched many lives with his unbridled passion for helping people who deal with mental illness every day access the help and support they need.

Kelly says Harkness inspired state leaders during Mental Health Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Topeka. This and other activities were "part of his unwavering commitment to educate and increase awareness about mental illness," Kelly says.

Harkness, of Topeka, served on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kansas Board of Directors and as NAMI Kansas board president since 2013, Kelly's office says. NAMI and Harkness' family requested memorial donations be made to the Eric Harkness NAMI Kansas Scholoraship Fund, "as a way to enable others to participate in NAMI events."

"It's our hope that the Eric Harkness NAMI Scholarship Fund will honor Eric's memory and his great passion to bring about awareness concerning mental illness," NAMI Kansas says in a statement to the Topeka Capital Journal.

The newspaper says supporters can make donations in Harkness' memory at the NAMI Kansas website.

Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or 785-841-2345.