What is Mental Health First Aid?

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Just like physical first aid, Mental Health First Aid training teaches people to help someone who is developing a mental health problem, or to respond to a mental health crisis. The idea was originally developed in Australia 18 years ago, but has now been taken up in 24 countries across the world, including the UK.

Who can become a Mental Health First Aider?

Anyone can train to be a mental health first aider, as trainees won’t be expected to offer diagnosis or medical intervention. The idea is to support someone through an immediate crisis, to signpost them to the right sources of help or to prevent them harming themselves or someone else.

What does a Mental Health First Aider do?

Situations that may call for a mental health first aider include panic attacks, substance misuse, suicidal thoughts or intention to self-harm. But there are many circumstances in which a mental health first aider might be able to help. For example, where someone is feeling too distressed to get themselves home or go about their regular duties, the first aider may be able to offer practical assistance.

Another important role that trained first aiders can play is in educating others. Stigma, discrimination and misunderstanding does sadly still exist around mental health issues, and trained individuals are encouraged to help foster better awareness. They’ll also learn to spot the early warning signs that someone might need some support.

Where can I find a Mental Health First Aid course?

Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE) offer a range of courses on the subject, including the standard Mental Health First Aid course, as well as courses specifically aimed at helping you support young people and those in the armed forces. There’s also a seven-day instructors course, which qualifies you to train others.

MHFAE want to train one in 10 people in Mental Health First Aid. This is in response to the fact that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives. It is also timely given that mental health services are currently strained to capacity.

Is it mandatory for employers to train staff in Mental Health First Aid?

Employers are not legally obliged to have trained Mental Health First Aiders on site. But business leaders are starting to get on board with this initiative. One Yorkshire-based solicitor, Jodie Hill, is leading a national campaign, including a Change.org petition, to make it mandatory for employers to provide a mental health first aider for their staff.

Hill, who is the managing director of employment and HR practice Thrive Law, told the Yorkshire Post: “We have physical first aiders in the workplace, and yet mental health issues occur more often and cost more to businesses. The law is outdated in this area and needs urgent reform.”

“The stark truth is that mental health issues have an enormous cost to the UK economy, businesses and employees,’’ Ms Hill said. “I believe that if the law is changed to require businesses to invest in a mental health first aider, we would start to see a change to the mindset of the workforce and the management.”

If you want to find out more about Mental Health First Aid, go to the MHFAE website.

My Possible Self is a clinically-backed mental health toolkit that helps individuals and organisations improve their wellbeing. If you’re an individual, get the app here. Or if you’re an organisation and want to find out how we can help your employees improve their wellbeing, reduce stress and combat low mood, get in touch.

Sam Weston

I am a social media manager, content writer and audio enthusiast - I set a world record once upon a time!