Mental Health First Aid

mental health first aid

So often when an individual is in crisis, law enforcement officers or first responders are the first people on the scene.  How do they know to identify someone experiencing a mental health crisis? Mental Health America of the MidSouth has certified instructors to train your team, and these resources are free.

Mental Health First Aid

People who enroll in local Mental Health First Aid courses learn a 5-step action plan to help loved ones, colleagues, neighbors, and others cope with mental health or substance use problems. 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. 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. 

  • As of 2018, there are more than 1 million people trained in Mental Health First Aid in the United States by a network of more than 12,000 Instructors.
  • Mental Health First Aid was originally created in Australia in 2001 under the auspices of the University of Melbourne and is now international
  • The National Council for Behavioral Health – a national trade group with more than 2,900 member organizations serving millions of Americans nationwide – helped bring Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008 with the goal of making it as common as traditional first aid and CPR. 
  • Mental Health First Aid has strong evidence backing it. Three quantitative and one qualitative studies have shown that the program
    • 1) improves people’s mental health,
    • 2) increases understanding of mental health issues and treatments,
    • 3) connects more people with care, and
    • 4) reduces stigma.
  • Trainees go through an 8-hour training program that teaches them a 5-step action plan to
    • 1) assess a situation,  
    • 2) select and implement appropriate interventions, and
    • 3) secure appropriate care for an individual experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.
  • Trainees also learn risk factors and warning signs of mental illness and addiction and about available treatments. Upon completion, participants better understanding the impact mental illnesses and addictions have on a person, their family and communities.
  • Trainees are from all walks of life and include school personnel, law enforcement, faith-based communities, hospital and nursing home staff, families and young people.

MHA of the MidSouth has staff trained as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructors in both Adult MHFA (including special modules for Public Safety/Law Enforcement, Fire/EMS, Older Persons, Higher Education and Veterans/Military Personnel and Military Families) and Youth MHFA (for adults who work with youth to learn the skills they need to reach out and provide initial support to adolescents, ages 12-18, who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care). We currently have grant funding to present the Public Safety, Fire/EMS, and Veteran/Military/Military Families modules at no cost to those audiences. Contact Margie Gray at for more information.