a@w 16 – May 19, 2021: Mental Health First Aid: Now Proudly Offered by the Foundation

awareness@work 16 – May 19, 2021
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Mental Health First Aid: Now Proudly Offered by the Foundation

Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey. Ph.D.

May 19, 2021

    The Foundation's series awareness@work intends to shed light on the growth of consciousness in how business organizations respond to traumatic losses in their workplace. Be it one person (customer, employee, family member) or a group of people experiencing trauma; many organizations are initiating changes in how they support people in times of distress.

     Awareness of how best to meet distressed people's needs is rising dramatically with the evolution of Care and Special Assistance Teams. Once cautioned against approaching a distressed survivor due to liability concerns, many companies today encourage employees to contact them without fear, expressing sorrow, and showing genuine compassion toward the impacted individual.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States 

    This month; the Foundation proudly announces a new offering to its members and other followers--Mental Health First Aid training. Because of the Foundation’s commitment to creating a compassionate and safe workplace for employees, customers, and families; the new training is a perfect fit. In this article, I will explain the origin of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training, sponsored in the US by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, and more about the program content.

Mental Health First Aid as a Global Movement

    Mental illness is a growing global crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Burden of Disease study estimate that almost 800,000 people die from suicide every year. 

What is Mental Health First Aid?

    MHFA originated in Australia in 2000 and has evolved into a global movement with more than 50,000 accredited MHFA instructors, delivering courses in 24 countries working together to increase global reach and impact. In 2008, MHFA was brought to the United States. More than four million people have been trained worldwide as Mental Health First Aiders.

     The MHFA course extends the concept of first aid training to mental health and substance use challenges. MHFA teaches participants to recognize the signs and symptoms that suggest a potential mental health or substance use challenge, listen non-judgmentally and reassure a person who may be experiencing a mental health or substance abuse challenge and refer a person to appropriate support and services.

The MHFA Training is Evidence-Based

    Since it began in 2000, MHFA International has been committed to evaluating its training programs using vigorous, scientific studies. Courses have been independently and academically peer-reviewed through studies both domestically and internationally. In the USA, a 2018 study of Adult and Mental health curricula concluded that the program:

    Reduced stigma around mental illness;

    Increased participant knowledge about mental health;

    Raised participant confidence to use the 5-step MHFA Action Plan (ALGEE):

        Assess for risk of suicide or harm; 

        Listen non-judgmentally; 

        Give reassurance and information;

        Encourage appropriate professional help;

        Encourage self-help and other support strategies.


About the Training and Role of the Mental Health First Aider

    Participants who complete the one-day course are referred to as “First Aiders” and act as the first line of support for a person in need. First Aiders are there to help them feel less distressed and be vital in assisting them in seeking further assistance. The course is a perfect match for Human Services Response™ Training as MHFA Training emphasizes that body language, what we say, and how well we listen have a powerful impact. The program teaches about mental health challenges and uses a strength-based holistic perspective aimed at helping people help themselves. Mental Health First Aiders become an advocate for others, empowering the community and improve self-care.

    Today millions of people know how to recognize and respond to someone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. As the number of people facing mental health challenges continues to grow, this is more important than ever before.

    Mental Health First Aiders do not diagnose or treat mental health or substance use challenges. Instead, First Aiders serve as a vital link between a person experiencing a new or worsening mental health or substance use challenge and appropriate professional supports, self-help, and other support strategies.

For more about the Foundation and our programs, please contact Cheri Johnson, cheri.johnson@fafonline.org or visit us at fafonline.org.

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