Building Capacity of Communities to Help People with Mental Health Problems

The Mental Health First Aid program has solid evidence for its effectiveness from randomized controlled trials and qualitative studies in increasing knowledge, reducing stigma and, most importantly, increasing supportive actions by members of the public to people with mental health problems.

The program was developed in Australia in 2001 and has spread to many other countries. Currently over 170,000 Australians (1% of the adult population) have done the training.

It is feasible to greatly expand this number so that the community as a whole can take a greater role in supporting people with a mental illness. A first aid certificate is required for practice in certain occupations.

Similarly, a Mental Health First Aid certificate needs to become a prerequisite for practice in occupations which involved increased contact with people having mental health problems, such as nursing, medicine, teaching, social work, welfare studies, youth work, Aboriginal health work, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech pathology and prosthetics.

Making a Mental Health First Aid part of the basic training of these human service professionals would greatly extend the nation’s capacity to support people with mental illnesses.

Ms Betty KitchenerDirector, Mental Health First Aid Program, University of Melbourne

Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium, Nov 2011, Ballarat Vic

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