Mental Health First Aid
About Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it does build mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.
Just as CPR training helps a person with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, mental health first aid training helps a person assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as contemplating suicide. In both situations, the goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives. Mental health first aiders learn a single five-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports.
Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, and they engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.
Trainees are taught how to apply the five-step action plan in a variety of situations such as helping someone through a panic attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal, or assisting an individual who has overdosed. An important component of the mental health first aid course is the opportunity to practice the intervention strategy rather than to just learn about it. This simple experience can make it easier to actually apply the knowledge in a real-life situation.
Completion of the Mental Health First Aid program results in a three-year certification.
Mental health first aid is intended for all people and organizations that make up the fabric of a community. The course is presented to chambers of commerce, professional associations, hospitals, nursing homes, civic clubs, parent organizations, social clubs, and other groups. Professionals who regularly interact with the public (professionals such as police officers, human resource directors, and primary care workers), school and college leadership, faith communities, friends and family of individuals with mental illness or addiction, or anyone interested in learning more about mental illness and addiction should be trained.
Mental Health First Aid is an international program proven to be effective. Peer-reviewed studies published in Australia, where the program originated, show that individuals trained in the program:
- Grow their knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions.
- Can identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with a mental illness or addiction.
- Increase their confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress.
- Show increased mental wellness themselves.
Studies also show that the program reduces the social distance created by negative attitudes and perceptions of individuals with mental illnesses.
Mental Health First Aid USA is listed in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). NREPP is a searchable database of mental health and substance abuse interventions to help the public find programs and practices that best meet their needs and learn how to implement them in their communities. All interventions in the registry have been independently assessed and rated for quality of research and readiness for dissemination. Read the summary for Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults
Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults teaches you how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. This training — which focuses on the unique experiences and needs of adults over the age of 65 — gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care.
Youth Mental Health First Aid
Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12 to 18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth mental health first aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including ADHD), and eating disorders.
Teen Mental Health First Aid
Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) teaches youth in grades 10 to 12, or ages 15 to 18, how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges in their friends and peers. The course covers common signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges; signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis; particularly suicide; the impact of school violence and bullying on mental health; how to open the conversation about mental illnesses and substance use with friends; how to seek the help of a responsible and trusted adult.
tMHFA is available for teens in grades 10, 11 and 12 or ages 15 to 18 and is sponsored by high schools, organizations partnering with a high school and youth-serving organizations. For more information about bringing tMHFA to your school or youth-serving organization. Please contact Kim LaFountain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mental Health First Aid for Fire/EMS
Mental Health First Aid for Fire/EMS teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. This training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care. It focuses on the unique experiences and needs of firefighters and EMS personnel and is a valuable resource that can make a difference in their lives, their coworkers’ and families’ lives, and the communities they serve.
Mental Health First Aid for Military Members, Veterans and their Families
Family members and personnel working with military and families are often not aware of how to engage veterans with mental illnesses and addictions. In addition to the impact of military service on the veteran, each has a circle of family (significant other, children, parents, siblings, etc.) and friends who are also impacted by their military service. Mental Health First Aid offers a simple, proven combination of information and techniques for effective interventions. A tailored module builds upon the effectiveness of the standard Mental Health First Aid curriculum by focusing on the unique experiences and needs of the military, veteran and family population.
Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education
Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education is designed for the unique culture of colleagues and universities. Training students, faculty and others in higher education settings how to recognize the symptoms of emerging mental illnesses or to assist young adults in a mental health crisis can help lessen the severity and impact of mental illnesses.
History of Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid was created in Australia in 2000 by Betty Kitchener, an educator and mental health consumer, and Professor Tony Jorm, a mental health researcher.
In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States, with the goal of making Mental Health First Aid raining as common as CPR.