First Aid Training for Mental Health Issues

You probably know a few first aid basics; you may even have taken a training course or two. But what do you know about mental health first aid? Chances are, you probably haven’t heard of it and don’t know whether you’re prepared or not.

“Mental Health First Aid has the same purpose as traditional first aid – to save lives,” said Sandy Allen, Program Director, Mental Health First Aid (Canada). One in five Canadians will have a mental health issue at some point in his or her lifetime, and professional help may not be available. This training is intended to help people learn what to do to support or aid someone experiencing a mental health problem until help arrives.

Initial help to someone who needs it

Adopted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in early 2010, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is a concept that began in Australia as a way to help improve mental health literacy.

The training is not meant to show people how to be therapists, but it does teach appropriate first steps to take before professional help arrives, if it’s needed. MHFA shows how to:

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems.
  • Provide initial help.
  • Guide a person towards appropriate professional help.

“Mental health problems are more common than most people realize, especially depression, anxiety and misuse of alcohol and other drugs,” Allen said in a news release about the program.

“The stigma associated with mental health problems often hinders people from seeking help. MHFA Canada teaches people to react in a calm, confident and appropriate way to provide the best help they can.”

What issues does MHFA cover?

MHFA uses guidelines set by an international panel around a number of issues, including depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, psychosis, panic attacks, problem drinking and problem drug use.

Find a program near you

There are currently two programs available: one offering basic skills for adults, and another for adults who interact with you. Courses are available in the Quinte region and throughout the province of Ontario. For more information, go to