Why Mental Health First Aid?

Whilst people often know a lot about common physical health problems, there is widespread ignorance of mental health. Regular first aid courses are recognised as improving the public’s skills in giving initial and appropriate help at medical emergencies but, unfortunately, most of these courses do not address helping with mental health problems. However, mental health problems are common. In Australia, approximately one in five adults will experience a common mental illness in any given year. In light of this, all members of the community can expect to have close contact with someone experiencing a mental illness. Mental Health First Aid Australia is a national not-for-profit health promotion charity focused on mental health training and research for workplaces and the community. Developed in 2001, MHFA Australia has an ongoing commitment to evaluating its training programs using rigorous, scientific studies. Following an independent assessment of the program’s research base, MHFA was recently included in SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

Learn how to provide initial support to adults who are developing a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Course participants learn about the signs and symptoms of the common and disabling mental health problems, how to provide initial help, where and how to get professional help, what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective, and how to provide first aid in a crisis situation.

Developing mental health problems covered are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety problems
  • Psychosis
  • Substance use problems

Additions to the latest Edition 4 Manual include:

  • Gambling Problems
  • Eating Disorders
  • Cultural considerations and communication techniques when providing MHFA to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
  • Considerations when providing MHFA to LGBTIQ persons
  • Mental health crisis situations covered are:

    • Suicidal thoughts and behaviours
    • Non-suicidal self-injury (sometimes called deliberate self-harm)
    • Panic attacks
    • Traumatic events
    • Severe psychotic states
    • Severe effects from Alcohol Use
    • Severe effects from drug use
    • Aggressive behaviours

    Course content is derived from a number of consensus studies incorporating the expertise of hundreds of researchers, clinicians, mental health consumer advocates and carer advocates across the English speaking western world.

    Developed in 2001 by Betty Kitchener AM and Professor Tony Jorm, Mental Health First Aid Australia is a national not-for-profit organisation focused on mental health training and research. MHFA Australia develops, evaluates and provides a variety of training programs and courses:

    What do MHFA Course Participants Learn?

    MHFA courses teach mental health first aid strategies to members of the public. Mental health first aid is the help provided to a person who is developing a mental health problem, or in a mental health-related crisis, until appropriate professional treatment is received or the crisis resolves.

    Course content is derived from a number of consensus studies incorporating the expertise of hundreds of researchers, clinicians, mental health consumer advocates and carer advocates across the English speaking western world.

    MHFA courses can provide members of the community with:

    • Skills in how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems;
    • Knowledge of the possible causes or risk factors for these mental health problems;
    • Awareness of the evidenced based medical, psychological and alternative treatments available;
    • Skills in how to give appropriate initial help and support someone experiencing a mental health problem;
    • Skills in how to take appropriate action if a crisis situation arises involving suicidal behaviour, panic attack, stress reaction to trauma, overdose or threatening psychotic behaviour

    The MHFA Action Plan ALGEE®

    The MHFA courses teach you how to give mental health first aid using the Action Plan pictured below. The MHFA Australia mascot, ALGEE the koala, is named after the Action Plan acronym – A.L.G.E.E.

    Who Should Attend a MHFA Course?

    MHFA courses are open to all members of the community, so the short answer is, everyone aged 18 years and above. In particular, it is recommended that MHFA becomes a prerequisite for all employed in human services.

    This includes police officers, prison officers, high school teachers, TAFE and university lecturers, social and welfare workers, youth workers, Aboriginal health workers, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, lawyers, dieticians, physiotherapists, chiropractors, security officers, rehabilitation counsellors and anyone in a team leader/management role.

    Course Format

    This is a 12-hour course, which can be delivered as either:

    • A 2 consecutive day training package (6 hours per day), OR
    • As 4 separate training modules (3 hours each)

    Course participants receive Edition 4 MHFA 187 page glossy manual to keep and a Certificate of Completion.

    MHFA Course Evaluations

    Since it began in 2000, Mental Health First Aid Australia has been committed to evaluating its training programs using rigorous, scientific studies. Listed here are studies that evaluated MHFA training and have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals. A number of these evaluations were conducted by MHFA led by Professor Tony Jorm at the University of Melbourne. Evaluation studies have also been conducted by independent organisations.

    These evaluations consistently show that MHFA training is associated with improved knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, knowledge of appropriate first aid strategies, and confidence in providing first aid to individuals with mental illness, benefits which are maintained over time. Some studies have also shown improved mental health in those who attend the training, decreases in stigmatising attitudes and increases in the amount and type of support provided to others.

    Who can attend a course?

    Any interested adult can attend. Please note this course is not a therapy or support group, rather it is an education course to learn how to give first aid to others.


    “Outstanding and thought provoking. I found this course extremely informative and believe it will help me, both in my professional and personal life.”

    “Informative and interesting, the course made me realise that there is a lot more involved with mental illnesses than I had previously realised. A great community course!”

    “Excellent course. Well researched and presented. I found it extremely worthwhile.”

    “I was really impressed! The course opened my eyes to many aspects of mental health that I didn’t know, or at least only superficially.”

    “One of the most interesting, informative and valuable courses that I have ever attended.”

    “Fantastic! Congratulations on developing such an important and vital course as this one.”

    “I think it was a fantastic course and hope that every single Australian is given the opportunity to take part in

    This 2 day workshop can be held for your staff at your workplace, or you can send staff to a scheduled workshop. All enquiries or expression of interest can be directed to our senior trainer, Sandra Willie by email or telephone: (07)3117 2455 or email: