The National Council for Behavioral Health operates Mental Health First Aid USA (MentalHealthFirstAid.org) in partnership with the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Four detailed studies have been completed in Australia and nearly a dozen journal articles published on Mental Health First Aid’s impact on 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. Findings from the other studies have echoed these outcomes.
To date, Mental Health First Aid has been replicated in more than 20 countries, including England, Scotland, Finland, Canada, China, Ireland, Wales and Singapore. In the US, we truly value the supporting evidence and strive to achieve fidelity to the original Mental Health First Aid program developed in Australia. In the next ten years, we hope that Mental Health First Aid in the US will become as common as CPR and First Aid training. It has the potential to reduce stigma, improve mental health literacy, and empower individuals — the benefits are limitless!
The goal of Mental Health First Aid is to increase mental health literacy. Like 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, Mental Health First Aiders 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 information about evidence-based treatment and support - ultimately building participants' mental health 'literacy'.