Most of us would know how to help if we saw someone having a heart attack—we’d start CPR, or at the very least, call 9-1-1. But too few of us would know how to respond if we saw someone having a panic attack or if we were concerned that a friend or co-worker might be showing signs of alcoholism. Mental Health First Aid takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder.
Mental Health First Aid was created in 2001 by Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education, and Anthony Jorm, a mental health literacy professor. Kitchener and Jorm run Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national non-profit health promotion charity focused on training and research
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.
Mental Health First Aid USA is managed by the National Council of Behavioral Health
Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The course teaches how to apply the ALGEE action plan in different situations. 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. Upon completion of the course and examination individuals receive a 3- year certification in Mental Health First Aid.
There are currently over 1 million Americans trained as a Mental Health First Aider. Teachers, first responders, veterans, healthcare workers, leadership teams, higher education leaders, managers, front line staff, faith leaders, family members supporting their loved ones, individuals in recovery, community members, and caring individuals are just some of the people that are certified in Mental Health First Aid.