Annual Conference

TheMHS 2015 SS044: Mental Health First Aid Today and Tomorrow

By August 29, 2015 No Comments

The Mental Health First Aid Program – now a successful international community intervention – Betty Kitchener

Betty co-founded the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program in Australia that has now spread to over 20 other countries. The MHFA program fills a gap in knowledge reflected by the 1997 National Mental Health Literacy Survey that indicated individuals required a greater knowledge of how to help someone displaying signs of mental illness. The program was created around evidence-based information and is continually updated. The length of the course is 12 hours over two days and covers a number of areas. Participants in the course are informed on what to look out for, types of early intervention, professional help available and what to do in a crisis situation. Research shows that the program is working to improve knowledge and also promoting a reduction in stigma. The program is tailored for different countries, cultures, age groups, GLBTQI and professional areas.


Mental Health First Aid – born in Australia, sweeping USA saving lives – Sharon Thomas-Parks

Sharon is one of the original MHFA trainers who helped to bring the program over to the USA. Sharon wanted to create a consistent roll out of the program across the country and worked with a number of organisations to get the program moving. Michelle Obama has participated in the course and said, “It really gives you the skills you need to identify and ultimately help someone in need.” The USA is providing large amount of funding to make sure schools and organisations have the opportunity to participate. Over 450,000 people in the USA have been trained in MHFA with the numbers growing each year.


The teen MHFA program: A Mental Health First Aid course for adolescents helping each other – Claire Kelly

Clair has a passionate interest in adolescent mental health. She provided her own perspective on why the MHFA course of adolescents or teenMHFA is so important. Clair found that young people are currently quite well educated regarding the signs of mental illnesses. However, there was a gap in knowledge regarding what they should do if one of their friends disclosed an issue with mental health or they suspected an issue. Young people were saying if information was disclosed to them they would listen to their friend and try to help them. This program teaches that social support is important but it also important to get their friends to see a counsellor or talk to an adult. The topic also includes the important issue of suicide prevention for young people. The teenMHFA course is continually developing with feed back from students and updated research.


Mental Health First Aid: Embracing technology for a new era – Nataly Bovopoulos

Nataly is completing a PHD focusing on MHFA in the workforce. Nataly discussed the process of transferring the MHFA program onto an elearning platform. This online program provides access to people who otherwise would not be able to complete the 12-hour two-day course such as shift workers, students and those living in remote areas. The program is now condensed into a 5-7 hour self paced model that was 11 months in the making. The elearning model is interactive with audio and video breaking up different segments. Research has found it is effective in improving knowledge and reducing stigma. Future research will look at how it compares to face-to-face learning. Nataly suspects that a blended method of presenting the program looks promising. 

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