In the last 10 years MHFA has spread rapidly within Australia and overseas. The Program’s developers, Betty Kitchener OAM and Professor Tony Jorm, have been generous in sharing MHFA overseas. To date MHFA has been adopted by 16 countries. This is equivalent to over 12% of all countries worldwide. One thing is for sure, our Algee (the MHFA mascot) is a well seasoned traveller!
We share news from two of our International MHFA Program Partners, MHFA USA and MHFA Canada, who have both recently reached the remarkable milestone of 50,000 MHFAiders.
MHFA was introduced to the USA in 2008. Seeing a need for improved mental healthcare, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare partnered with the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to bring the program from Australia.
Since its introduction to the USA in 2008, 50,000 people in 47 states across the USA have completed the MHFA course. Course participants in the USA are from various backgrounds, including emergency medical services professionals and law enforcement officials to human resource experts, business leaders and those who work with youth and are members of faith-based communities.
Meena Dayak from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare commented, “Overall, the program has proven to be an eye opener for participants. People have become more aware that mental illness is just like any other illness such as cancer, diabetes or a heart condition. It can be common and it is treatable. Most of all, it’s gratifying for people to learn that help is available and to find out where it is.”
Over 1,850 MHFA Instructors have been trained to conduct MHFA courses in the USA. One of these Instructors, Mike Lange, is a retired lawyer who took the course and became an instructor shortly after a shooting in Arizona whereby six people were killed. One of the victims was a judge whom Mike knew well. Mike commented, “If more people knew how to help people with mental illnesses, fewer such tragedies might occur”. But, he says, he mostly teaches the class in hopes of spreading “more information, less stigma, more vigilance and more caring.”
MHFA USA have recently held a pilot Youth MHFA Instructor Course, with 10 different sites across the country testing the course in their communities to see if there are any further tweaks needed before going public. They are also working on an initiative to try and get the course into more rural communities, and are piloting a public safety focused course in Philadelphia and Maryland. The Mayor of Philadelphia hopes for 10% of the city to be trained in MHFA over the next few years.
MHFA was introduced to Canada in 2006 and officially became part of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in 2010. Their mission is to work with stakeholders to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Their goal is to promote mental health and help people who live with mental health problems lead meaningful and productive lives.
Since 2006, 50,000 people in Canada have completed the MHFA course. Denise Waligora, Manager of Program Education of MHFA Canada commented, “We are so proud to have provided MHFA to 50,000 Canadians. Our numbers will continue to grow as we all become more aware of the incredible value MHFA can bring to an organisation, community, or even a family.”
A probation officer from Ontario who recently completed the training said, “I had an amazing experience in this training which is going to benefit me in my field.” An education coordinator who recently completed the training commented, “Everyone should take this course, especially if you work in education.”
The growth of the program has really taken off since joining the MHCC in 2010. The number of accredited MHFA instructors in Canada is currently over 600 and growing. The course is open to everyone including teachers, health service providers, emergency workers, police, frontline workers who deal with the public, volunteers, human resources professionals, employers, and community groups among many others.
You can also find out more about International MHFA Programs here.