Like CPR for medical emergencies, mental health first aid (MHFA) is the initial care given to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis.
By learning the basics of MHFA, people can better understand the concept of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness and how to help them.
The Prevalence of Mental Illness
It is thought that around 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental health condition each year.
In general, the term mental illness refers to a group of illnesses that affect the brain. These conditions significantly affect how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with others. The severity of its impact may be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
If left untreated, the symptoms may interfere with people’s lives in different ways and degrees. Worse, it can impact someone’s home management, social life, work, and personal relationship.
The most common types of mental illness affecting Australians include depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
Mental health first aid helps fight the negative effects of various mental illnesses.
Understanding Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program that was first founded by Betty Kitchener AM and Professor Tony Jorm to develop a not-for-profit organisation for mental health training and research.
MHFA aims to teach members of the community how to provide initial support to adults who are developing a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis.
To do that, you will need to learn how to properly execute the five-step intervention process. These are as follows:
Assess risk for suicide or harm
When addressing poor mental health, the first thing to do is to look for signs of physical self-harm or potential suicide actions.
There are obvious signs, such as talking about harming oneself and dying, but other symptoms are more subtle that can be easily missed. It is important to recognise the signs as it can lead to professional help and treatment that can even save a life.
In a mental crisis, it is important to make the person feel understood, respected, and accepted for what they are through. You can do that by listening and having a meaningful conversation without any judgment.
Being a good listener involves verbal and nonverbal skills such as asking good questions and creating a comfortable setting for the person to share their feelings and experiences.
Provide reassurance and information
It is important for people suffering from poor mental health to receive reassurance then what they are going through is not their fault. To do that, make sure to approach the situation with dignity and never blame them for their symptoms.
Encourage relevant professional assistance.
You may help by putting the person in touch with professionals that could help with their situation. If they require immediate help, they can get it from a doctor or psychiatric help from a mental health professional.
Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
If you know someone experiencing mental ill health, encourage them to conduct their own self-help without forcing anything against their will.
It is a fact that individuals can contribute to their own recovery through meditation and other practices such as physical exercises, reading self-help groups for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), peer support groups, and more.
Mental Health First Aid Training
It is important to receive proper training before administering mental health first aid. The last thing we want is to escalate the situation even further.
The good news is that MHFA certification is now fairly simple for everyone to get.
Mental Health First Aid course takes 5.5 hours to complete, during which you will learn how to properly execute the five-step intervention process.
Understand how to support individuals with mental ill health in an MHFA course.
Visit our course page to find out more.