Kennesaw State launches center for military and emergency services mental health research

KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 4, 2022

Kennesaw State University has launched a research center that its founders hope will help reduce suicide, anxiety and depression among Georgia’s approximately 1 million military and public safety personnel.

Kennesaw State established the Center for the Advancement of Military and Emergency Services Research (AMES Research) with the mission to bring mental and organizational health resources to those populations, while using research to advance and improve health strategies.

“Military personnel and first responders experience high rates of job demands that can lead to serious behavioral and physical health concerns,” said Israel Sanchez-Cardona, associate director of the center. “Our task is to bring together a network of people working in different kinds of research and using culturally aligned, population-specific interventions to maintain and enhance performance.”

Brian Moore and Israel Sanchez-Cardona

Brian Moore and Sanchez-Cardona, both assistant professors of psychology in the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said the center will fill a need for accessible behavioral health intervention resources in Georgia. 

Moore, director of the center, said the AMES Research Center will help individuals and families use its research to build on treatments received for behavioral and physical health concerns, as well as better equip employers to handle occupational stressors. The center will also develop and advance clinical research and use advanced statistical modeling to better understand how to reduce stress, anxiety, sleep dysfunction, suicidality, and other issues that influence the military and first responder communities. 

“For example, a fire department’s leaders could come to the center concerned that depression or suicide risk is a significant problem within their workforce,” Moore said. “We would then create an assessment for members of the department, identify any problems that are present, and then provide interventions to the fire department leaders to help reduce depression and suicide risk.”

Georgia has more than 750,000 veterans, or around 9% of the state population, and the fifth-largest active-duty population in the U.S., according to Moore. There are also an estimated 50,000 law enforcement officers and 911 personnel, more than 30,000 firefighters and nearly 25,000 EMTs, paramedics and other emergency medical workers in the state, according to organizations that certify workers in those jobs.

Corrine McNamara, chair of Kennesaw State’s Department of Psychological Science, praised the “community-oriented work” that Moore and Sanchez-Cardona will do through the center and called the establishment of AMES Research promising for the benefits it will bring to the military and first responder communities.

Sanchez-Cardona said he and Moore began working together toward the launch of the AMES Research Center when they both joined KSU in August 2020 and realized their shared passion for helping improve mental health outcomes in underserved communities. Moore holds a doctorate in psychology with a focus on military health and served 12 years in the Army, commissioning as an infantry officer after his graduation from Georgia Southern University. 

Sanchez-Cardona, a native of Puerto Rico and an expert in occupational health psychology, said before coming to KSU, he designed organizational assessments and intervention programs through Albizu University’s Third Mission Institute, promoting worker and organizational well-being in Puerto Rico.

AMES Research Center is seeking community partners and research collaborators.

– Thomas Hartwell
Photos by Judith Pishnery

Related Stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit