What Is Mental Health First Aid

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course which teaches people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis.

MHFA won’t teach you to be a therapist, but just like physical first aid, it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis. Adult MHFA courses are for everyone aged 16 upwards. Every MHFA course is delivered by a quality assured instructor accredited by The Royal Society for Public Health, and is trained to keep people safe and supported while they learn.

To date over 206,000 people across England have taken an MHFA course, with around 1,300 registered MHFA instructors in England.



“You should consider ways to manage mental ill health in your workplace which are appropriate for your business, such as providing information and training for managers and employees, employing occupational health professionals, appointing mental health trained first aiders and implementing employee support programmes.

-Health and Safety Executive (HSE) November 2018



Where did Mental Health First Aid come from?


The Mental Health First Aid programme was developed in Australia by Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm in 2000. Since 2003, MHFA  has spread to a number of other countries (Bermuda, Cambodia, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Japan, Malta, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, United States, United Arab Emirates, Wales). By 2016, 1.7 million people have been trained in mental health first aid worldwide.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is a community interest company and was established in 2009 after being successfully piloted within the Department of Health. MHFA England provides mental health awareness training and consultancy to a wide variety of organisations, businesses and communities – with the primary aim of increasing the population’s mental health literacy and reducing the stigma often associated with mental ill health.



Why is Mental Health First Aid needed in the workplace?


  • At any one time one worker in six will be experiencing depression, anxiety or issues relating to stress (Centre for Mental Health, 2010)
  • The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 (Health and Safety Executive, 2015)
  • In 2013, mental ill health cost the UK economy £70 billion which equates to 4.5% of the country’s GDP (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014)
  • The total cost to employers of mental health issues among their staff is estimated at nearly £26 billion each year. That is equivalent to £1,035 for every employee in the UK workforce (Sainsbury Centre, 2007)
  • 15.2 million days of sickness absence across the UK in 2013 were caused by stress, anxiety or depression (Office for National Statistics, 2014)
  • The total cost of sickness absence due to mental ill health to employers is estimated at nearly £8.4 billion each year. That is equivalent to £335 for every employee in the UK workforce (Sainsbury Centre, 2007)
  • 76% of line managers believe they are responsible for employee wellbeing, but only 22% have received training (BITC, Mental Health at Work Report 2016)



“Everyone is somewhere on the mental health spectrum, so this is a business productivity issue which should be dealt with alongside other health and safety considerations. Creating a positive environment for mental health demonstrably costs less than failing to do so.

-Nigel Carrington, University of the Arts London




What do you learn in the training?


The learning is a practical skills and awareness course designed to give you:

  • A deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including your own
  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to appropriate support


In each session participants will learn how to:

  • Spot the triggers and early signs of mental health issues
  • Have the confidence to help someone experiencing a mental health problem
  • Carry out Mental Health First aid using enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgmental listening
  • Help when someone shows signs of distress and potential of causing harm to themselves of there
  • Prevent mental illness progressing
  • Assist with mental health recovery by guiding them to appropriate support
  • Proactively reduce the stigma of mental health issues


Independent research and evaluation shows that taking part in an MHFA course

  • Raises awareness and mental health literacy
  • Reduces stigma around mental health and feeling confident guiding people towards appropriate support
  • Boost knowledge and confident in dealing with mental health issues
  • Encourages people to start a conversation with a person who may be experiencing a mental health issues
  • Promotes early intervention which enables recovery


Upon successful completion of the course you will be able to say you are a Mental Health First Aider.


MHFA England continually quality assures its training products and applies a robust quality assurance and evaluation process to all its course deliveries. The MHFA England instructor training programme for Adult and Youth MHFA two day courses has been accredited by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH).






“Workplace mental health should now be a priority for organisations across the UK. We need the right leadership amongst employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policy-makers to deliver the mental health core and enhanced standards. Together we can support all employees, including those with mental health problems, to thrive in work..

-Thriving at work The Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers October 2017



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