Mental Health First Aid USA is a groundbreaking public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common treatments. Mental Health First Aid is a live training course, which uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect persons to professional, peer and social supports as well as self-help resources. This course allows for early detection and intervention by teaching participants about the signs and symptoms of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and addictions.
THE OBJECTIVE: To be able to confidently and succinctly explain what Mental Health First Aid is and why it’s important.
- People who enroll in local Mental Health First Aid courses learn a 5-step action plan to help loved ones, colleagues, neighbors and others cope with mental health or substance use problems.
- Similar to traditional First Aid and CPR, Mental Health First Aid is help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis until professional treatment is obtained or the crisis resolves.
- Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based public education and prevention tool – it improves the public’s knowledge of mental health and substance use problems and connects people with care for their mental health or substance use problems.
- As of 2018, there are more than 1 million people trained in Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. by a network of more than 12,000 Instructors.
- Mental Health First Aid was originally created in Australia in 2001 under the auspices of the University of Melbourne, and is now international with programs in countries such as the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Finland and Singapore.
- The National Council for Behavioral Health – a national trade group with more than 2,900 member organizations serving millions of Americans nationwide – helped bring Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008 with the goal of making it as common as traditional first aid and CPR.
- Mental Health First Aid has strong evidence backing it. Three quantitative and one qualitative studies have shown that the program: 1) improves people’s mental health, 2) increases understanding of mental health issues and treatments, 3) connects more people with care and 4) reduces stigma.
- Trainees go through an 8-hour training program that teaches them a 5-step action plan to 1) assess a situation, 2) select and implement appropriate interventions, and 3) secure appropriate care for an individual experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.
- Trainees also learn risk factors and warning signs of mental illness and addiction and about available treatments. Upon completion, participants better understanding the impact mental illnesses and addictions have on a person, their family and communities.
- Trainees are from all walks of life and include school personnel, law enforcement, faith-based communities, hospital and nursing home staff, families and young people.
“The day after I completed the training, my usually reliable friend didn’t come to church services, which was out of character. My roommate and I were concerned because we knew she was struggling with depression and anxiety, so we texted her. She responded that she was having a really bad time and she decided to stay home. It was a red flag, so we left early and went to see her….As soon as we walked into her apartment, the ALGEE action plan I had learned in the training clicked in….She’s working with a counselor and doing much better now. She still has her ups and downs, but when I see her, she seems to be dealing well with her challenges. I’m not sure how differently things would have gone if I hadn’t had a plan to follow in that situation. But thanks to my Mental Health First Aid training, I didn’t have to find out.” – Ethan Call, Psychology Student, Brigham Young University
“Our small community, Camanche, Iowa, has been greatly affected by suicide. We have suffered 22 losses during the last 15 years. The knowledge we all took away from [Mental Health First Aid] was priceless. From the moment this class began we were able to relate to the information that was provided to us due to the great communication skills and knowledge of the two Instructors. While mental health is a topic that many wish to not discuss, we feel that the Mental Health First Aid class was essential in bringing the knowledge and awareness our community is striving for. This program is a top-notch service to area communities like ours and we are so grateful for the opportunity to have this program in our area.” –Nikki Carber, Speak Out Against Suicide
“During the second day of [Mental Health First Aid] training, one of our participants left the class because of a phone call that needed his attention. He was gone for about 45 minutes. He returned to the training room a little pale and sat in class appearing to recollect himself. About an hour later, when we were going over ALGEE (the 5-step action plan) for one of the last times in the training, the man raised his hand and said, “ALGEE really works.” He proceeded to tell us that he had to step out of the training and talk to his daughter who is away at college. His daughter was distraught and in a ‘very dark place’ in her mental state. He continued that he was caught off guard and for a moment did not know how to respond until he thought about what we were just discussing in class. His demeanor was serious and astonished on how well the ALGEE Action Plan worked and he then went through each letter and explained how he
used it to help his daughter through a difficult time.” –Barry Groesch, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health