What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid is the help given to a young person experiencing mental health issues before professional help is obtained. MHFA is NOT psychotherapy, but in fact aims to help individuals identify potential concerns present, leading to enhanced emotional difficulties caused by one or many stressors. It is aimed at empowering young people in recognising areas of concern in themselves as well as develop appropriate reactions towards others experiencing mental health concerns.
This enables an assessment of severity in a way that allows the young person to gauge whether the need ends with first aid or whether he/she would like further intervention by a trained mental health professional. The session helps to not just recognise one’s own mental health functioning, but develop knowledge and strategies for responsiveness towards others dealing with mental health concerns. It is similar to how we understand first aid in physical health, which refers to the immediate response that we ideally must provide to an injured person; in this case the injury being emotional. It may be used by an individual as a one-time screening session to consult the professional in order to make the decision towards regular psychotherapy.
How does MHFA help?
- Preserve life where a young person may be a danger to themselves or other
- Provide help to prevent the emotional or mental health issue developing into a more serious state
- Promote the recovery of optimal mental health
- Raise awareness of mental health issues in the community
- Reduce stigma and discrimination
Why is MHFA for the youth necessary?
- Emotional issues often develop during adolescence or early adulthood, starting by the age of 15 years. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety and misuse of alcohol and other drugs are highly prevalent, but due to lack of awareness tend to go unnoticed and hence undiagnosed.
- Throughout the course of any person’s life, it is highly likely that they will develop a mental health issue themselves or have close contact with someone who does. Understanding MHFA develops the capacities in individuals to respond in the best possible manner to emotional concerns of self and others.
- Mental health disorders in childhood can have high persistence. Due to most people not being well informed in how to recognise mental health issues and what effective treatments are available, people may not know where to seek help or what kind of help might be useful. With greater community awareness people will be able to recognise their issues and feel more comfortable about seeking professional assistance.
- Some mental health issues cloud clear thinking and good decision-making. A young person experiencing such issues may not realise or may be too distressed to realise that they need help, or that effective help is available.