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One in four Americans lives with a mental health problem each year. Yet, up to two-thirds go without treatment. Just as CPR training helps a layperson without medical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Background
Developed in 2001, Mental Health First Aid was created in Australia by Professor Tony Jorm, a respected mental health literacy professor, and Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education. Studies in Australia show that the program saves lives, improves the mental health of the individual administering care and the one receiving it, expands knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, increases the services provided and reduces overall stigma by improving mental health "literacy". For further evidence supporting the implementation of Mental Health First Aid, please see the Australian Mental Health First Aid website. The program has been replicated in England, Scotland, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, and Singapore in addition to the United States.

In order to increase public understanding of these disorders and improve treatment for those affected by them, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare piloted Mental Health First Aid in the United States 2008. Please see the National Council's Mental Health First Aid USA website for more information about the national program.

About the Course
The Mental Health First Aid program is an interactive session which runs 8 hours. It can be conducted as a one-day seminar, or two ½ day events spaced over a short period of time. Mental Health First Aid certification must be renewed every three years, and introduces participants to:

  • The potential risk factors and warning signs for a range of mental health problems, including: depression, anxiety/trauma, psychosis and psychotic disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and self-injury
  • An understanding of the prevalence of various mental health disorders in the U.S. and the need for reduced stigma in their communities
  • A 5-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to assess the situation, to select and implement appropriate interventions, and to help the individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional care
  • The appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help resources available to help someone with a mental health problem

Who should become a Mental Health First Aider?
Everyone can benefit from this important program. Specific audiences for each training vary, but include hospitals and federally qualified health centers, state policymakers, employers and chambers of commerce, faith communities, school personnel, state police and corrections staff, nursing home staff, mental health authorizes support staff, young people, families and the general public.

For more information about the program or to request training, please contact Tina Zimmerman, Manager of Special Projects at Allegheny HealthChoices, Inc. at 412-325-1100 x7764 or at tzimmerman@ahci.org.