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.

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.

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.

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. (

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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