First issued in the United States in 2008, the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) was created to help those individuals with mental health issues and substance abuse. The kit was originally designed and marketed in 2001 by Australian Anthony Jorm, a well-known and admired mental health literacy professor, and Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education. It was backed by ORYGEN Research Center at the University Of Melbourne, Australia, and has been reproduced in over fourteen countries, including the United Kingdom, Finland, Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Ireland, and Canada. This particular type of first aid is similar to other first aid courses and specializes in assisting an individual who is experiencing a crisis, such as contemplating suicide, suffering a panic attack, or overdosing on drugs or alcohol. MHFA is taught through a course, which is given in a five-day, twelve-hour period. The MHFA course is available at specific dates and times throughout the year in numerous cities all over the U.S. The course, led by instructors thoroughly certified in the field of mental healthcare, is taught as a five-step action plan. This action plan teaches its users how to:
- Assess for risk of suicide or self-harm
- Listen non-judgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage those at risk to seek appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Four years ago the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, along with the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, decided to establish such a program in the U.S. as a means to aid non-professionals in saving lives. More than fifteen-thousand people of every conceivable background have taken the course, including law enforcement officials, human resource experts, EMS professionals, business leaders, and people who work with youth, such as teachers, and daycare professionals. The program has proven to be an extremely valuable resource and is expected to grow exponentially in the U.S., becoming it as common as the traditional First Aid and CPR.
With more people being certified with MHFA every day, helping individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues is becoming easier and information educating the public is more readily available to a wider section of the population. Sadly, our society sometimes frowns upon on people suffering from addiction and mental health issues, but I am hopeful that, with this new program, our society will learn to better appreciate these problems while assisting those in need in learning how to take care of themselves. I have seen first-hand—having worked at a sleep over summer camp with young children—people who are overwhelmed by mental health issues who could have benefited greatly from MHFA. I believe that everyone who works with young people and adults should be aware of this program and become certified. The help we can give to these individuals will be immeasurable.
For more information regarding the five-step action plan and sites for certification can visit the official page of the Mental Health First Aid USA:
- Mental Health First Aid USA. National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, 2009. Web. 29 June 2012.
Filed under: Featured, Mental Illness · Tags: Addiction, alcoholism, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, CPR, daycare professionals, drug addiction, education, Finland, First Aid, healthcare, Hong Kong, human resources, information, Ireland, law enforcement, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, mental disorders, mental health, Mental Health First Aid, mental illness, MHFA, Missouri Department of Mental Health, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, overdose, self harm, singapore, substance abuse, suicide, teachers, United Kingdom, United States, University of Melbourne, youth