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 1 million people across the country through a network of more than 12,000 instructors, has already saved lives and brought hope to many.
1 in 5 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 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 illness, 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 mental health 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 illness and gives participants the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the health information and services needed to make appropriate decisions and seek care.
Reach and Audiences
In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health brought Mental Health First Aid to the U.S. As of April 2017, more than 1 million persons in communities across the country have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders 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; 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 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 www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.
Youth Mental Health First Aid
Youth Mental Health First Aid, focused on youth 12 to 25 years, is being rolled out across the U.S. after a year-long pilot. This version is designed to teach neighbors, teachers, parents, peers, and caring citizens how to help a child or teen who is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem or is in crisis. The youth version provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, 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 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 launch of Youth Mental Health First Aid coincides with the Born Brave Bus Tour hosted by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta’s Born This Way Foundation. The National Council is a partner on the bus tour which is comprised of interactive “tailgate” events in the 27 U.S. cities of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball tour, during which young people will meet to share stories of bravery and empowerment. Mental health professionals will be onsite to raise awareness of mental health and connect young people in need of support to local resources. Following the bus tour, the National Council and the Born This Way Foundation will offer Mental Health First Aid trainings in communities across the U.S.
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.