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Why Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that can help communities understand mental illnesses, seek timely intervention, and save lives. The core program, delivered to more than 100,000 people across the country through a network of 3,000+ instructors, has already saved lives and brought hope to many.
One in five Americans has a mental illness and many are reluctant to seek help or might not know where to turn for care. The symptoms of mental illness can be difficult to detect — even when friends and family of someone who appears to be developing a mental illness can tell that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment – which means that all too often, those in need of mental health services do not get them until it is too late. As a society, we largely remain ignorant about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, and we ignore our role as responsible community members to help people experiencing these illnesses.
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid 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.
Mental Health First Aid 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 program offers concrete tools and answers key questions like “What can I do?” and “Where can someone find help?” Participants are introduced to local mental health professionals and resources, national organizations, support groups, and online tools for mental health and addictions treatment and support.
Mental Health First Aid demystifies mental illnesses and gives participants the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the health information and services needed to make appropriate decisions and seek care. Read more about the program in our latest edition of National Council Magazine.
Reach and Audiences
In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health brought Mental Health First Aid to the U.S. As of June 2013, more than 100,000 persons in communities across the country have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders through a network of 3,000 certified instructors.
Mental Health First Aid has been taught to a variety of audiences, including: health, human services, and social workers; employers and business leaders; faith community leaders; college and university staff and faculty; law enforcement and public safety officials; veterans and family members; persons with mental illness-addictions and their families; and the general public. New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and other major cities and counties have adopted Mental Health First Aid as a proven strategy to engender healthier communities by training large groups of public health and public safety workers, government and social services staff, and other
Certified instructors teach the program in communities across the United States. To find a course or contact an instructor in your area, visit www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.
Youth Mental Health First Aid
Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach neighbors, teachers, parents, peers, and caring citizens how to help a youth or teen who is experiencing a mental health or substance
use challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, the prevalence of
mental health disorders, the effectiveness of treatment, and how to engage troubled young people in services.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults — family members, caregivers, school staff, health and human services workers, etc. — who work with young people age 12-25, and is also appropriate as a peer support program for older adolescents. The curriculum spans mental health challenges for youth, review of normal adolescent development, and intensive guidance through the ALGEE action plan for both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered in the manual include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. Youth Mental Health First Aid may only be taught by instructors certified specifically in this version.
The National Council for Behavioral Health seeks to make Youth Mental Health First Aid
available in every one of 4,197 colleges and 13,809 school districts in the U.S.
Advocacy and Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid can become more widespread across the country. Read more about the Mental Health First Aid Act to hear how, and how you can support the act in your community.
Advocates wishing to pursue legislation for Mental Health First Aid at the state or local level should read through our State Legislative Toolkit.