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Mental health 'first aid': Free class teaches you how to recognize the signs of mental illness

A free class in Pinellas County is teaching people how to recognize the signs of mental illness.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As we head into the holiday season, keep in mind that it's not always the happiest time of the year for everyone.  

More than half of the people diagnosed with a mental illness say the holidays make their condition worse. Now add to that the loneliness and isolation many are already feeling from the pandemic. 

That's why it's more important than ever that we recognize the signs of mental illness. 

In Pinellas County, a mental health first aid class is being offered for free. In the class, you learn the signs of a person suffering from a mental health issue or crisis and how to get them the help they need.

April Lott is the President and CEO of Directions for Living in Clearwater, which offers the class. "We have a goal of training 3,000 people in mental health first aid by the end of December. And to train up to 50 new instructors in mental health first aid training so that we can continue this effort for the next several years."

Directions for Living in Clearwater has offered this training for years, but recently received a grant for more than a million dollars from Pinellas CARES to cover the cost of the classes until the end of the year.  And while the class targets first responders, it's open to all Pinellas County residents. "Mental health first aid really is designed for the masses, for all of us to be able to respond appropriately to someone who's experiencing a mental health crisis."

To make it even easier, the one day course is being offered virtually. Lott says she always gets great feedback. "Every time somebody takes this class, within probably three weeks, they notify me that they had an opportunity to use it and that they believe they saved a life."

This particular class is being offered to Pinellas County residents only for free until the end of the year. Click here to find out how you can sign up.

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