The importance of First Aid in promoting positive outcomes for those injured or suddenly taken ill is well known.

Many of us have completed First Aid training and feel more or less confident in our ability to carry out first aid procedures. Government legislation has ensured that our workplaces have the right type and number of first aid kits as well as certified First-Aiders on the premises.

Mental Health First Aid

But what about Mental Health First Aid?

It’s no secret that there’s a stigma associated with mental health problems but with these types of illness occurring frequently in our community – one in five Australians aged 16-85 suffer from some form of common mental illness in any year – it seems clear more of us should be learning a thing or two about mental health first aid as well.

Just as people can learn some basic ways to help people suffering a physical problem, so too can they learn some simple ways to help those suffering from a mental illness. Similar to physical first aid, knowing mental health first aid may just save a life.

Never Heard of Mental Health First Aid?

Well it’s far from being as ubiquitous as physical First Aid. It was, in fact, developed in Canberra, Australia in 2001 by Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm. There are now over 1000 accredited instructors covering every state and territory of Australia.

The program has gone international, having gradually spread to a range of countries, including Scotland, Canada, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, USA and Wales, where the course is adapted to suit both the culture and health system of the country in question.

So What Exactly is Mental Health First Aid?

It is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves.

A range of studies, including randomised controlled trials, have shown that Mental Health First Aid training improves:

  • Knowledge
  • Reduces stigmatising attitudes
  • Increases first aid actions towards people with mental health problems

Spreading the skills required to assist those mental health problems beyond the realm of mental health professionals will not only help sufferers but also aid in decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness.

The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan looks like this:

  1. Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis
  2. Listen non-judgmentally
  3. Give support and information
  4. Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help
  5. Encourage other supports

There are many courses available throughout Australia. Visit to find one near you or for more information.

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