by Comprehensive Staff

04/12/2016 6:54 pm

Why We Teach Youth Mental Health First Aid

teen girl in thought

Youth Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour training designed to teach adults about how to recognize and respond appropriately to a young person who may be developing or experiencing a mental health challenge. First developed in Australia in 2000, Mental Health First Aid has been delivered to U.S. audiences since 2007 and is used in 23 countries around the world. In the U.S. alone, over 500,000 people have been trained in this program.

The Mental Health First Aid program has been evaluated by scientific research in a variety of countries, including in the United States. Studies consistently find that the training is “associated with improved knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, knowledge of appropriate first aid strategies, and confidence in providing first aid to individuals with mental illness.” Individuals who participate in a MHFA course not only learn more about different mental illnesses, but also feel more competent to provide support to someone experiencing a challenge.

Similarly, some studies have also demonstrated a decrease in “stigmatizing attitudes” among participants. We know that stigma is one of the biggest barriers people face when considering seeking treatment. It’s what prevents people from recognizing there’s a problem and asking for help. Stigma perpetuates misinformation and tells people to be ashamed of their experiences. For us, one of the biggest benefits to Mental Health First Aid training is the reduction of this harmful stigma around mental illness.

We strongly encourage parents, teachers, coaches, youth leaders, and anyone who regularly works with or serves young people to get trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid. One of the key things this training teaches adults is to recognize and take seriously any signs that a young person may be struggling. This means both noticing when something seems amiss, even if the teen hasn’t mentioned that something is wrong, and responding in a supportive and nonjudgmental way. The education provided by Youth Mental Health First Aid is an important piece in both stigma reduction and encouraging appropriate treatment. We know that when people are better informed about mental illness, they’re more likely to respond with empathy and compassion when someone they know is struggling.

If you'd like to attend a Youth Mental Health First Aid training, check our events calendar at www.cwcmh.org or contact Jim (509-573-3607) to arrange a training for your group.