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Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Just as physical first aid is administered to an injured person before medical treatment can be obtained, MHFA is given until appropriate treatment is found or until the crisis is resolved. The MHFA Canada program aims to improve mental health literacy, and provide the skills and knowledge to help people better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, a friend or a colleague.
The program does not teach people how to be therapists. It does teach people how to:
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems.
- Provide initial help.
- Guide a person towards appropriate professional help.
MHFA is adapted from the MHFA courses developed in Australia and Scotland and shares their same overall purpose. It aims to:
- Preserve life where a person may be a danger to themselves or others.
- Provide help to prevent the mental health problem from developing into a more serious state.
- Promote the recovery of good mental health.
- Provide comfort to a person experiencing a mental health problem.
The MHFA course has been thoroughly evaluated in Australia using randomized controlled trials and a qualitative study and been found to be effective at:
- Improving the course participants’ knowledge of mental disorders.
- Reducing stigma.
- Increasing the amount of help provided to others.
Preliminary evaluations in Canada are consistent with the original Australian results.
Adaptations of the course have also been designed for individuals working with youth and with individuals living in northern Canadian communities.
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