MHA Q&A with Lisa Furst: Mental Health First Aid
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid training gives people a way to help others who may be experiencing emotional distress or a psychiatric crisis. It introduces people to risk factors and warning signs of mental health and substance use problems, and teaches them how to help people get the care they need in their community.
How are people trained in Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid training is a live, 8-hour course that teaches people to identify the signs of mental illnesses and addictions, how to provide initial help, and how to connect individuals in crisis with appropriate care. Since 2008, a growing number of individuals in the U.S. have completed Mental Health First Aid courses and federal and state governments have significantly increased funding to make it more available than ever before.
Who should take this training?
Participants have included a wide range of people in the community including emergency services personnel, police officers, educators, primary care professionals, students and others. Mental Health First Aid gives people valuable tools and confidence when helping an individual in distress. Just as anyone can benefit from learning medical first aid, anyone can benefit from Mental Health First Aid training.
Why haven’t we heard about this before?
Mental Health First Aid is an important breakthrough because it gives people the necessary skills to respond to and engage people in emotional distress in their community. In the past, people who experience mental illness or severe emotional distress have been challenged by stereotypes, prejudice and misconceptions surrounding mental disorders. It was often difficult for them to reach out or accept help. People trained in Mental Health First Aid can be instrumental in breaking down the stigma that prevent people who are struggling with symptoms of mental illness from getting the support they need to live productive, satisfying lives.
What else should we know about Mental Health First Aid?
It’s a first step toward helping people with mental illness who are in immediate distress, but it is not a substitute for ongoing treatment. Helping individuals find the necessary resources and support to get treatment is a crucial element of Mental Health First Aid.