SEATTLE – Several Seattle Parks and Recreation crews completed Mental Health First Aid training Wednesday from the Union Gospel Mission.

UGM said the training is a national standard that will help park cleanup crews identify mental illness when they see it downtown.

“We’ve been spit on, we’ve been jabbed at, we’ve been cursed at,” said one worker during an open forum.

The crews say their job can be dangerous, because they cross paths with a lot of people who have mental health issues.

“It’s just tough on all of us who works downtown. What we encounter, what we go through, what we see on a daily basis,” said Will, who added his personal story.

“I recently lost my apartment. Basically, I’m sleeping in my car right now because I’m waiting for housing, so I am in a little bit of depression,” he confided.

“These guys sitting around this room are my support system,” he said. “This job is my support system and this is all that I have – and I’m holding on for dear life.”

The Union Gospel Mission said about one in four people in downtown shelters have serious mental health issues. Part of Wednesday’s training included dispelling mental health misconceptions.

“Three of the top four of the most disabling illnesses, according to the World Health Organization, are mental illness,” said Ryan Likes, a Union Gospel Mission community mental health specialist.

The mental health first aid training focuses on making sure the person they encounter won’t hurt themselves or others. The crews were taught to listen and not judge and to suggest the person seek help.

“They need to be as equipped as possible to interact with folks who most likely are experiencing some kind of mental health problem,” said Likes.

The Union Gospel Mission said this Mental Health First Aid certification is good for three years. Most classes are open to the public.