The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that one in every five Canadians experiences a mental health or substance use problem within a given year. Mental health and substance use problems often first develop during adolescence or early adulthood, with half of all mental disorders beginning by age 14, and 75 per cent beginning by age 24. (Kessler, R. C., Amminger, G. P., Aguilar‐Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Lee, S., & Ustun, T. B. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Current opinion in psychiatry, 20(4), 359.)
While people often know a lot about physical illness, most people have less knowledge about mental health or substance use problems. This lack of understanding often leads to fear and negative attitudes towards those living with these problems. It prevents people from seeking help for themselves, and from providing appropriate support to people around them.
What is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)?
MHFA is the help provided to a person who is showing signs of declining mental well-being or experiencing a crisis. The first aid is given to encourage a person to reach out to supports, or to connect the person to crisis supports if needed.
Aim of MHFA
The aim of MHFA is to prevent mental health or substance use problems from becoming more serious and reduce the likelihood of secondary effects such as loss of employment, school dropout, relationship break-up and drug and alcohol problems. Many people have a long delay between developing a mental health or substance use problem and receiving appropriate treatment and support. The longer people delay getting help and support, the more difficult their recovery to improved mental well-being can be. It is important that young people are supported by their family, friends, and teachers and other staff at school during this time. People are more likely to seek help if someone close to them suggests it.
This course is designed for adults assisting young people between the ages of 12 to 24. The focus is on adolescence which is generally defined as those aged between 12 and 18. However, adolescence can start earlier than 12 years and can continue through to the early 20s, so this course could be relevant when helping people who are a little younger or older.
This course introduces participants to MHFA actions and the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours needed to use these actions effectively. The information is discussed and practiced to help participants learn (or learn more about):
- Recognizing the signs that a young person may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health or substance use crisis
- Having conversations that encourage a young person to:
- Talk about a decline in their mental well-being
- Discuss professional and other supports that could help with recovery to improved mental well-being
- Reach out to these supports
- Assisting in a mental health or substance use crisis
- Checking in with one’s own mental well-being and taking action as needed