What is Mental Health First Aid and Why is it Important?

Many of us have taken some level of first aid training. In the course, you typically learn how to help take care of minor wounds, assist someone who is unconscious or be the first responder in the case of an emergency. This immediate assistance, given before the paramedics arrive, even has the potential to save someone’s life.

But what happens when people need immediate assistance for a mental health condition? Would we know how to respond? Should we know how to respond?

A relatively new concept, mental health first aid is typically described as the assistance given to someone during a mental health crisis until they can get professional support or until the crisis passes. In training, individuals can also gain a better understanding about mental health conditions, which helps to reduce stigma.


Image Benson Kua

Mental health first aid is important not only because it helps to cultivate understanding about mental health issues, but also because it offers an option for a first response. In other words, it helps individuals recognize symptoms of various conditions, understand how that person might be feeling, and assist them in seeking further support. This is extremely important when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis, psychosis or is suicidal.

Other benefits of mental health first aid training include creating awareness of how common mental illness is and how debilitating these conditions can be. Furthermore, proper training can help boost confidence in handling mental health crises which helps to reduce fear and misunderstanding.

Put simply, furthering education on mental health is important in helping others, helping ourselves and reducing stigma. With this, individuals who need proper help and support from mental health professionals might be more willing to accept it.

Feature image Daniele Oberti