What is Mental Health First Aid?

First aid is the help given to an injured person before medical treatment can be obtained. Mental Health First Aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves.

What are Mental Health Problems?

The most common and disabling mental health problems are depression, anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders. Mental health problems are very common. In any one year about one in five adult Australians experience a mental health problem. Many people suffer a mental illness for a long time before they seek help. Furthermore, alcohol and drug problems frequently occur with depression, anxiety and psychosis.

The Mental Health First Aid Program

While people often know a lot about common physical health problems, there is widespread ignorance of mental health problems. This ignorance adds to stigmatising attitudes and prevents people from seeking help early and seeking the best sort of help. It also prevents people providing appropriate support to colleagues and family members, simply because they do not know how.

In order to help people provide initial support for someone with a mental health problem, a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training course has been developed.

This course is a 12-hour course developed in 2000 by Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm with the aim to improve the mental health literacy of members of the Australian community. It is now auspiced by Orygen Youth Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Participants receive a course manual and also a certificate at the completion of the course. Those who have completed the course have been very positive about the knowledge and skills they have acquired.

Mental Health First Aid courses are conducted in every state and territory of Australia. These participants have been very varied, including teachers, nurses, case managers, support workers, social welfare staff, employment agencies staff, personnel staff, members of the general public, and staff of many Commonwealth State and Local Government Departments.

Two culturally and linguistically modified MHFA courses are now available:

For further information download the Program Summary PDFs: