National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that can help individuals across the community understand mental illnesses, support timely intervention and save lives. 

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Advocate for Mental Health First Aid
Ask your federal and state legislators to support Mental Health First Aid legislative activity

Why Mental Health First Aid?

One in five Americans has a mental illness or substance use disorder, yet many are reluctant to seek help or simply don’t know where to turn for care. Recognizing mental health and substance use challenges can be difficult, which is why it’s so important for everyone to understand the warning signs and risk factors. Even when friends and family of someone who may be developing a mental illness recognize that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment. All too often, those in need of mental health services do not get them until it is too late.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The course introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health concerns, builds understanding of their impact and provides an overview of common treatments. Through role-playing and simulations, it demonstrates how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions; provide initial help; and connect people to professional, peer and social supports as well as self-help resources.

Mental Health First Aid encourages 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 resources, national organizations, support groups and online tools for mental health and addiction treatment and support.

Mental Health First Aid USA is operated by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Read more about the program in our special 5th Anniversary edition of National Council Magazine.

Reach and Audiences

In 2008, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing brought Mental Health First Aid to the U.S. To date, more than 2 million people in communities across the country have been trained in Mental Health First Aid through a network of more than 12,000 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; first responders; faith community leaders; college and university staff and faculty; law enforcement and public safety officials; military members, veterans and family members; people with mental illness and addiction and their families; and other caring citizens.

Certified Instructors teach the program in communities across the United States. To find a course or contact an Instructor in your area, visit

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. The course discusses mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and provides 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.

Advocacy and Mental Health First Aid

You can help spread Mental Health First Aid to your community and across the country. Read more about the Mental Health First Aid Act to learn how.