Mental Health First Aid is an adult public education program designed to improve participants' knowledge and modify their attitudes and perceptions about mental health and related issues, including how to respond to individuals who are experiencing one or more acute mental health crises (i.e., suicidal thoughts and/or behavior, acute stress reaction, panic attacks, and/or acute psychotic behavior) or are in the early stages of one or more chronic mental health problems (i.e., depressive, anxiety, and/or psychotic disorders, which may occur with substance abuse).
The intervention is delivered by a trained, certified instructor through an interactive 12-hour course, which can be completed in two 6-hour sessions or four 3-hour sessions. The course introduces participants to risk factors, warning signs, and symptoms for a range of mental health problems, including co-morbidity with substance use disorders; builds participants' understanding of the impact and prevalence of mental health problems; and provides an overview of common support and treatment resources for those with a mental health problem. Participants also are taught a five-step action plan, known as ALGEE, for use when providing Mental Health First Aid to an individual in crisis:
• A--Assess for risk of suicide or harm
• L--Listen nonjudgmentally
• G--Give reassurance and information
• E--Encourage appropriate professional help
• E--Encourage self-help and other support strategies
In addition, the course helps participants to not only gain confidence in their capacity to approach and offer assistance to others, but also to improve their personal mental health. After completing the course and passing an examination, participants are certified for 3 years as a Mental Health First Aider.