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Tampa Bay organization plans to train 5,000 people on mental health first aid

Posted at 5:33 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 20:51:58-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Many of us have taken CPR or basic first aid training, but a Tampa Bay organization is now making a big push for all of us to add another crucial course to the list: Mental health first aid training.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is hoping to provide the link to saving lives by offering the 8-hour (currently virtual) training to 5,000 people over the next three years in the Tampa Bay area.

The goal is especially important for friends and family of Lawrence Hundley Dimmitt IV. Lawrence was a fourth-generation member of the Dimmitt Auto Group and his sister says he was loved by everyone he met.

“My brother was successful, athletic, surrounded by friends, outgoing, fun to be with and all of those things and that’s why I think we were all shocked,” she said.

Mallory Dimmitt says when her 32-year-old brother died by suicide three years ago, his family and friends launched a new mission: Love IV Lawrence, with a goal to erase the stigma of mental health and encourage difficult conversations.

“I encourage everyone to take the time to go out of your way to check in on people. I will forever wish that I had done that more with my brother,” Mallory added.

Wilma Norton, with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, says knowing the signs of mental health struggles and having the courage to step up to help, can make all the difference.

“We really want just average people to know how they can help,” Norton said. “Sometimes it’s just asking a question or offering a sympathetic ear and after going through the course you feel like you are more confident to be able to do that.”

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay plans to work with nonprofits, church groups, and schools to offer the training for free. They’re also offering the training to individuals and businesses for $125 per person.

The program could also expand to law enforcement in the future. Many local police and sheriff departments tell ABC Action News that mental health training is a top priority, but getting all officers and deputies trained has been tricky because courses aren’t always readily available.

Mallory Dimmitt is confident the 8-hour training will help others step in to help. “This is a way we can turn our grief into action and keep my brother’s memory alive,” she added.

Mental Health First Aid is a national certification provided by the National Council for Behavioral Health. According to the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, it has proven to be effective in expanding knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions, helping people identify resources available and increasing a person’s confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress.

A study released by the CDC in August 2020 found that 40 percent of U.S. adults are struggling with at least one serious mental health issue during the pandemic.

You can learn more about the mental health first aid training and how to sign up here.