KC centers push for more programs focusing on mental health - KCTV5 News

Kansas City centers push for more programs focusing on mental health

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The debate has turned from gun control to providing more help for the mentally ill.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a member of the Democratic Party, said the school massacre in Newtown, CT, should have Missouri reevaluating the laws and preventative measures in place now.

"We are always ready to discuss ways to make our schools safer. We are always ready to discuss ways to make sure we have a mental health system that operates effectively and efficiently," Nixon said.

And now mental health centers have plans to do more, starting with a new program that at least one Kansas City center is pushing for to provide education.

As a young woman in her 20s, Elizabeth Wilson's life was quickly spiraling out of her control.

"I was at my wits' end. I felt like I needed to pull out all my hair out of my head," Wilson said.

Wilson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

"Like giant spiders crawling, walls and shadows trying to get me," she said. "(I was) paranoid that people in the corner were talking about me or laughing at me."

Wilson, a licensed nurse at the time, knew something wasn't right. But not everyone has her background.

A groundbreaking public education program, Mental Health First Aid, aims to change that.

"The goal is to help people understand the early warnings of mental health just as we want on the physical health side people to learn CPR. So if they got a heart problem, they can fix it," said Tom Cranshaw, the CEO of Tri-County Mental Health out of Kansas City, MO.

Mental Health First Aid trains people to recognize signs and symptoms of various mental health disorders and what to do in a crisis.

According to Behavioral Health Services of the Kansas City Metro, about one in 10 people in Kansas City's metro have a mental disorder. Of those people, 40 percent don't get help because of fear of stigma or expense concerns.

"People need to know that it's a disease of the brain - just as it's important to treat diabetes, with medication, exercise and diet," Cranshaw said.

Though there's no magic cure-all, as Wilson found, she said with treatment there is hope.

"It's OK to speak up - you don't need to keep what you have inside of you," she said.

Mental Health First Aid programs in the metro area should be up and running in mid-January. Community mental health services in the metro are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.

Click here for information on Tri-County Mental Health Services.

Click here for information on Mental Health First Aid.

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