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Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a public education program that helps the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. The National Council for Community Behavioral Health, the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health joined forces with the program’s founders in Australia to form Mental Health First Aid USA, bringing MHFA to the U.S. The training curriculum introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds an understanding of the prevalence of various mental health disorders and their impact, provides an overview of common treatments, and teaches a five-step action plan, known as ALGEE, encompassing the skills, resources, and knowledge to assess a situation; to select and implement appropriate interventions; and to help a person in crisis connect with appropriate evidence-based treatments and supports.

ALGEE steps include:
A = Assess for risk of suicide or harm
L = Listen non judgmentally
G = Give reassurance and information
E = Encourage appropriate professional help
E = Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Description

In 2010 the National Council, on behalf of Mental Health First Aid USA, approached Georgetown University’s National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health to adapt Australia’s Mental Health First Aid Youth Manual, developed by the University of Melbourne, for use in the U.S. Georgetown assembled a team that included families and youth to work with its faculty in developing a comprehensive manual on Youth Mental Health First Aid USA for Adults Assisting Young People. This work completed in 2011 became the basis for the youth curriculum developed to train Mental Health First Aiders. Georgetown participated in the piloting of that curriculum in the spring of 2012, and its faculty was one of the first cohorts to be trained in the fall of 2012.

To date, nationally over 200,000 people have been trained as First Aiders in the adult and youth training curricula. Interest in Mental Health First Aid and its role to increase knowledge, reduce stigma, promote early intervention, and teach individuals how to help people experiencing a mental health crisis is expanding. Over 11 states, with additional pending, have appropriated funding to provide Mental Health First Aid Training in their states. And the President’s “Now Is the Time” initiative is making funding available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support State and Local Education Authorities to build and expand capacity to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth, to provide training for school personnel and others who interact with youth, and to connect children, youth, and their families with appropriate services. Mental Health First Aid Training is a key component of these initiatives.

New Directions

The TA Center, through its grant from SAMHSA, is currently working, in collaboration with the National Council, to develop and pilot evaluation tools that can be used to determine the impacts of Mental Health First Aid Training. A pilot study to test and revise the tools have been completed with plans to conduct further assessment of the revised instruments in 2015.

Target Audience for Training

Georgetown faculty are available to provide Youth Mental Health First Aid Training on a limited basis to targeted audiences.

Contact Information

For further information or additional questions regarding Youth Mental Health First Aid Training, please contact:
Sherry Peters, M.S.W., A.C.S.W.,
Senior Policy Associate
National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health
Center for Child and Human Development, Georgetown University
slp45@georgetown.edu

For further information or additional questions regarding Mental Health First Aid Evaluation tools, please contact:
My K. Banh, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Pediatrics
National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health
Center for Child and Human Development, Georgetown University
mkb94@georgetown.edu