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What is Mental Health First Aid?

What is Mental Health First Aid?

We all have both physical and mental health. A lot is known about physical illnesses and treatments but there is much less awareness about the signs, symptoms and treatments of ill mental health. Even when we are able to identify that someone is suffering with ill mental health we often don't know what to say or do, especially in the workplace.

Mental Health First Aid training is not unlike physical first aid training. As a Mental Health First Aider you will learn the skills to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues.

More and more businesses understand why their workplace needs mental health first aiders at work and are providing mental health first aid training across their organisation. Mental ill-health has a huge impact on the workplace: 

  • 1 in 6 British workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time [1]
  • Total cost of mental ill health issues to UK employers was £34.9 billion in 2016/17 [2]
  • There were 602,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/19 in Great Britain [3]
  • In 2018/19, stress, depression or anxiety were responsible for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and 54% of all working days lost due to health issues in GB [3]
  • 69% of UK line managers say that supporting employee wellbeing is a core skill, but only 13% have received mental health training. 35% of line managers re- ported a wish for basic training in common mental health conditions [4]

1. McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 [Internet]. Leeds; 2016. Available from: full-rpt.pdf
2. Centre for Mental Health. Mental health at work: The business costs ten years on [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 16]. Available from: business-costs-ten-years
3. Health and Safety Executive. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019 [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Jan 6]. Available from:
4. Business in the Community. Mental Health at Work 2019: Time To Take Ownership [Internet]. 2019. Available from: ownership/

Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

When planning an approach to mental health first aid training in the workplace, perhaps a good rule of thumb is to have as many mental health first aiders in the workplace as you have physical first aiders.

Becoming a mental health first aider is particularly recommended for managers at all levels to give them the skills to spot an employee suffering from a mental health issue and to support them at work. The main workplace Mental Health First Aid course can be delivered either online or face to face. For those working with younger people there is a specific Youth Mental Health First Aid course too.

It is also beneficial to raise the awareness of mental health issues throughout the organisation and the shorter 1/2 day Mental Health Champion or 1 day Mental Health Awareness courses will help you acheive this.

Like physical illness the recovery from mental illness can be long and have set-backs. It is important that workplaces can support their employees through this recovery process with a positive and inclusive work environment, free from stigma.

Mental health first aid training also encourages staff to take care of their own mental health as well as helping them to know how to support each other.

Training with MHFA England also comes with three years of support and benefits via the MHFAider Support App®.

Download the MHFA England 10 Reasons Every Employer Should Invest in Staff Metnal Health infographic.

Cost of Mental Health First Aid Training

All Mental Health First aid courses are delivered by MHFA England qualified instructors and you receive a MHFA England certificate.

Being a Mental Health First Aider at Work

Your role is to act as a point of contact and reassurance for a person who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. Maintaining appropriate boundaries is a key part of successfully providing Mental Health First Aid and keeping yourself safe and well.

It’s important to remember that MHFA England courses do not teach people to be therapists or counsellors and do not teach people how to diagnose mental health conditions or provide ongoing support.

After taking the Adult two day (or online equivalent) Mental Health First Aid course you will be able to:

  • Understand the important factors affecting mental ill health
  • Identify the signs and symptoms for a range of mental health conditions
  • Use the system you learnt to provide Mental Health First Aid to someone experiencing a mental health issue or crisis
  • Listen non-judgementally and hold supportive conversations using the Mental Health First Aid action plan
  • Signpost people to professional help, recognising that your role as a Mental Health First Aider does not replace the need for ongoing support

Is there any difference between the online MHFA course and the face to face MHFA course?

No. The MHFA England, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course is the same whether it has been delivered online or face to face. Learners will receive the same training and the same certificate regalrdless of the delivery method.

During the covid19 pandemic MHFA International developed the Online Mental Health First Aid course to ensure that the most popular Adult MHFA course could continue to be delivered where social distancing measures may have prevented face-to-face delivery.  This method of online delivery was an outright success. 

How do I refresh my Mental Health First Aid Training?

Just like physical first aid, we recommend that MHFAiders® maintain their skills by attending a Refresher course three years after they’ve attended their original course. Attending an MHFA Refresher course will also give you access to three years of MHFAider® support and benefits.

Additional Training - Suicide First Aid - Understanding Suicide Intervention


Who are Mental Health First Aid England?

MHFA England is a social enterprise with the vision to improve the mental health of the nation. They want to create an unshakable belief that we can all talk freely about mental health and seek support when we need it. We will achieve this through our mission to train one in ten people in mental health awareness and skills.

Learn more about their work here:

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