What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it does build mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.
Just as CPR training helps a person with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a person assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives. Mental Health First Aiders learn a single 5-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports.
Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.
Mental Health First Aid for Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families?
While military service often fosters resilience in individuals and families, some service members may experience mental health or substance use challenges. Thirty percent of active duty and reserve military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health condition requiring treatment – approximately 730,000 men and women, with many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. Sadly, less than 50 percent of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment. The Veterans Administration reports that approximately 20 veterans die by suicide every day.
Individuals trained in Mental Health First Aid can help to:
- Break down the stigma associated with mental illness like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders
- Reach out to those who suffer in silence, reluctant to seek help
- Let veterans know that support is available in their community
- Provide community resource information
- Make mental healthcare and treatment accessible to thousands in need