What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an interactive 12-hour training course designed to increase mental health literacy. Just as CPR training helps a non-medical professional assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps an individual who doesn’t have clinical training assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis. In both situations, the goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives, with the added underlying intention to promote health literacy.
Mental Health First Aiders learn to apply a single strategy in helping someone through a panic attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal, supporting a person experiencing psychosis, and helping an individual who has overdosed. In practicing the intervention strategy, individuals learn the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and addiction; engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness; and learn about evidence-based treatment and support, ultimately building participant’s “mental health literacy.”
In the US, Mental Health First Aid is managed by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland State Department of Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health. More information on the program is available at www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.
Who Should Take Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is intended for a variety of audiences:
- friends and family of individuals with mental illness or addiction,
- direct service professionals,
- family living providers,
- foster families,
- service coordinators,
- human resource professionals,
- administrative support professionals,
- school employees,
- faith communities,
- nursing home employees,
- police officers and other emergency responders, and
- college/university resident assistants.
“Mental Health First Aid, with its new focus on recovery, has the power to transform communities, the power to change beliefs and the ability to connect people in ways they never would have connected otherwise.”
– Larry Fricks, National Consumer Leader