Home / Family Articles / Mental health first aid

Mental health first aid

mental health first aid

Written by:

Mental health first aid describes the steps you can take to support somebody who is experiencing mental distress. The help is usually offered  to ease difficult period or as a stopgap in the time before professional mental health support is sought. The first aid could also take place between sessions if someone is receiving ongoing assistance from a mental health professional.

Mental health issues are common

Mental health difficulties are extremely common. It is estimated that one in four adults will experience a level of mental health distress that requires some help. By mental health difficulties we mean experiences like depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders. All of us have mental health and  how we feel mentally changes depending on other factors in our lives such as stress, support and physical health.

Whilst common sense tells most of us that when someone is distressed, panicky or feeling hopeless it is helpful to be calm, accepting and reassuring, there is quite a lot more information that is helpful to know if you are in a position where this situation may crop up quite a lot. Sometimes situations at home or work can make us feel out of our depth is someone is going through something that we cannot relate to and this is where the need for information and training comes into play.

Mental health training

Mental health first aid trainings have been designed and are being delivered throughout the UK. The courses include how to spot the early signs of a mental health problem , ways to feel confident helping someone experiencing a problem, strategies to help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others, information that could help stop a mental illness from getting worse and help someone recover faster and very importantly how to  sensitively guide someone towards the right support.

People who experience mental health difficulties are often frightened that they are going to be judged because there is still a lot of stigma and prejudice towards people who suffer in this way. During a training you will have a change to explore your own attitudes towards mental health and get to hear about some of ways that are most helpful to communicate and respond to someone in a moment of crisis.

mental health first aid

Anyone can train

Training courses attract people from all walks of life including family members, police officers, teachers and medical staff.  Sometimes the training runs over two full days and other times it is split into several sessions. The sessions cover a lot of information and this is backed up with handouts and booklets to refer to after the course has finished. Lots of people who’ve attended the training have found them to be extremely insightful and helpful. They are suitable for people who have had personal experience of mental health difficulties and the trainers are also on hand to give participants support if the material or exercises prove to be a bit challenging. There is also a specialist training for mental health first aid for young people which is aimed at those living and working with young people aged 11-16 years old. There is also a basic three hour introductory mental health ‘lite’ course. To find out more about all of these course or how to book a training you can visit Mental Health First Aid England, who have a list of all the areas in England where courses are running. If you live in Wales you can find out about Mental Health First Aid at this website.

Finally if this area of work is something that really attracts you there are often opportunities to train as a mental health first aid facilitator yourself.



About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

View all posts by