Most Missourians understand first aid and what to do if someone is choking, not breathing, or exhibiting signs of another health emergency. However, few people know basic interventions if they encounter a person experiencing a mental health emergency even though they are likely to encounter such situations as well.
In Australia, Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm developed Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to teach basic first aid interventions for common mental health problems such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, substance use disorder, or a crisis situation such as suicidal behavior, post trauma distress, drug overdose, panic attack, and the like. Participants in a MHFA course demonstrated improved confidence in providing initial help, increased help given, and reduced stigma regarding mental health disorders resulting in international adoption and adaptation. Missouri is working collaboratively with a team from Maryland and the National Council of Community Behavioral Healthcare to launch the American version of Mental Health First Aid.
Mental Health First Aid is the help offered to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support is received or until the crisis resolves. The Mental Health First Aid Program teaches the public how to recognize symptoms of mental health problems, how to offer and provide initial help and how to guide a person towards appropriate treatments and other supportive help. Research of the program shows that participants in the MHFA courses demonstrated improved confidence in providing initial help, increased help given, and reduced stigma regarding mental health disorders. This is resulting in the international adoption and adaptation of the program.
Missouri is working collaboratively with the Maryland Mental Health Transformation Initiative and the National Council of Community Behavioral Healthcare to launch the American version of Mental Health First Aid. In 2008, the collaborative adapted the training program for use in the United States and initiated “beta” instructor and first aid trainings. Missouri’s first adult beta training was held July 1-2, 2008, in Jefferson City with 24 participants. The first Missouri instructor training was held September 29- October 3 in Jefferson City, featured MHFA co-founder Betty Kitchener to serve as a master trainer resulting in 18 certified instructors, including three master trainers (certified to provide the 5-day instructor training) in Missouri.
Based upon the results of the initial trainings, the national collaborative worked with Betty Kitchener to update the USA manual and training kit. These new materials were made available in the Spring of 2009. Existing instructors were trained on the new materials and additional instructor trainings were scheduled in Missouri in 2009. The University of Maryland, through SAMHSA funding, will be assessing the fidelity of the USA implementation to the original model.