Classes and Resources

Mental Health First Aid

‘You are more likely to encounter a person in an emotional or mental crisis than someone having a heart attack. Mental disorders are more common than heart disease and cancer combined.’

What is Mental Health First Aid?

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MentalHealthFirstAid_final-logoThe stigma surrounding mental illness often prevents people from seeking help or even acknowledging that they need help. And if they do want help, they don’t know where to turn. Mental Health First Aid equips the public to help individuals with illness connect with care.

Since 2010, AltaPointe’s Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certified trainers have taught hundreds of participants how to help identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.

MHFA-2-3-11Our trainers have held the training certification courses in cities along the Gulf Coast area and throughout the eastern United States. The interactive, 8-hour training course helps to improve mental health literacy of behavioral healthcare and other human service workers, non-profit organizations, employee groups representing a broad range of businesses and the public-at-large. Anyone with an interest in mental health may take MHFA training.

MHFA teaches people how to effectively intervene in a mental health emergency. Based on the same premise as medical first aid, MHFA trains individuals to recognize the signs and symptoms of various mental health crises to provide initial aid. Trainees are taught proven methods to assist adults experiencing a mental health crisis such as a panic attack, a suicide attempt, an overdose or a variety of other mental health emergencies. AltaPointe also offers Youth Mental Health First Aid training courses based on a curriculum that focuses on helping youth, ages 12–18, who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

AltaPointe works with nonprofits and businesses to schedule training onsite for employees and associates. AltaPointe also schedules training sessions for the public.

Certified Mental Health First Aiders learn a five-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to help those in crisis connect with the appropriate support services that can help them recover. Learn the details about our next Mental Health First Aid or Youth Mental Health First Aid training session.

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Has Mental Health First Aid been replicated in other countries?

Yes. To date, it has been replicated in Cambodia, Canada, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Wales in addition to the United States.

Have consumers of mental health or addictions services contributed to the development of Mental Health First Aid?

Yes. In fact, one of the original founders of the program in Australia is a consumer. Here in the United States, the National Council continually consults with mental health consumers to ensure the program content accurately reflects consumer experiences and perspectives. Consumers have maintained an active voice in focus groups, aided development of the training manual, and offered invaluable feedback on the program content itself. Additionally, a number of our certified instructors are mental health consumers themselves.

How can I learn more about Mental Health First Aid?

AltaPointe schedules training sessions daily. To learn how to participate in Mental Health First Aid training in Mobile, call (251) 450-4340.

How do I find a Mental Health First Aid course near me?

Search our database for up and coming courses near you here.

How many days does it take to complete the Mental Health First Aid program?

The Mental Health First Aid program runs 8 hours and may be offered in a variety of formats. Most often, it is conducted as a one-day seminar or two half-day sessions.

Is there evidence to support the effectiveness of the program?

Yes, in fact, the strong evidence base is the very reason the National Council selected this particular program. Five published studies in Australia show that the program saves lives, improves the mental health of the individual administering care and the one receiving it, expands knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, increases the services provided and reduces overall stigma by improving mental health literacy. One trial of 301 randomized participants found that those who trained in Mental Health First Aid have greater confidence in providing help to others, greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help, improved concordance with health professionals about treatments, and decreased stigmatizing attitudes. Unexpectedly, the study also found that Mental Health First Aid improved the mental health of the participants themselves. For further evidence supporting the implementation of Mental Health First Aid, please see the Evaluation section of the Australian Mental Health First Aid website: http://www.mhfa.com.au/evaluation.shtml

What do Mental Health First Aid training participants learn?

Just as CPR training helps a layperson with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a layperson 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 5-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, 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.

What is different about Youth MHFA?

Youth Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that introduces participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents and the importance of early intervention. The ultimate goal is to teaching individuals how to help a youth in crisis. Mental Health First Aid USA worked with experts at the National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health at the Georgetown University for Child and Human Development to develop the training.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour training course designed to give members of the public key 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.

What will Youth MHFA participants learn?

The course teaches participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, AD/HD, disruptive behavior disorders, and substance abuse disorder. Participants do not learn to diagnose, nor do they learn how to provide any therapy or counseling. Rather, participants learn a core, five-step action plan to support an adolescent in crisis. The action plan includes the following steps:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Where did Mental Health First Aid start?

Mental Health First Aid was created in Australia in 2001 by Professor Tony Jorm, a respected mental health literacy professor, and Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education. The program is auspiced at the ORYGEN Research Center at the University of Melbourne, Australia. (www.mhfa.com.au)

Who should take a Mental Health First Aid course?

Mental Health First Aid is intended for a variety of audiences, such as:

  • friends and family of individuals with mental illness
  • mental health and social service professional
  • primary care professionals
  • school and college leadership, educators, personnel
  • employers and business leaders
  • faith communities
  • school and college leadership, educators, personnel
  • professionals such as police officers
  • human resource directors
  • nursing home staff members, and
  • members of the public

The training venues will also vary as Mental Health First Aid program sites reach out to Chambers of Commerce, professional associations, hospitals, nursing homes, Rotary Clubs, parent organizations, social clubs and other groups who make up the fabric of a community. The core program is tailored for response to the general adult population.

Who should take the Youth MHFA course?

The course is designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents, such as, teachers, coaches, mentors, and juvenile justice professionals. In addition, the course may also be appropriate for older adolescents age 16 and older who may be able to encourage youth peer-to-peer interaction.

IMPORTANT: Youth Mental Health First Aid is not specifically designed for parents of youth with mental health challenges. Although parents and families may find the course content useful, the course provides a basic level of information and guidance, rather than more in-depth information on navigating the healthcare system, which parents may wish to explore.