How MHFA is Changing the World

 In Mental Health, MHFA

The Mental Health First Aid program was developed in Australia almost 18 years ago. Since then, the training has spread across nations to create a global network of MHFAiders.

Origins of Mental Health First Aid

The MHFA program was first designed in 2000 by Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm. The goal was to put together a research-based initiative to provide help to those who are experiencing the onset or worsening of a mental health problem. Kitchener and Jorm created the non-profit organisation with the symbol of the flannel flower, an Australian native known for its adaptability under extreme conditions. This symbol was chosen because:

In the same way, all of us develop resilience and the ability to adapt to change, in order to maintain good mental health. Positive and inclusive attitudes towards people with mental health problems can assist in the recovery of people living with mental illness.

Since its inception, the MHFA program has been an outstanding success and has changed lives for hundreds of thousands of Australians. In 2008, Kitchener and Jorm published a paper discussing the benefits of the MHFA in Australia. The paper can be accessed on the Wiley Online Library. From this study, Kitchener and Jorm demonstrate how MHFA can empower individuals to assist formal mental health programs with early intervention.

Global MHFA programs

Over 20 countries have licensed the MHFA program and are currently delivering all across the world. From Finland to Canada, Singapore to Scotland, the MHFA program is mobilising people everywhere to stand up and assist with mental health problems. In the USA, more than 500,000 people have been trained in MHFA by a collective of over 9,000 since the training was brought to America in 2008. Youth MHFA was implemented in the US in 2012 and was a keystone of president Barack Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence and increase mental health awareness. In a statement in 2015, first lady Michelle Obama said that:

It really gives you the skills you need to identify — and ultimately help — someone in need. Because you never know when these kinds of skills might be useful.

Success of MHFA

The program has had resounding approval from countries all over the world, including universities in England. MHFA was brought to England as part of an initiative to improve public health and included as a key step of the ‘No Health Without Mental Health’ implementation strategy, Times Higher Education reports. For one such university, King’s College London, the MHFA training has been remarkably beneficial for both staff and students. Jo Levy, head of counselling at King’s College, emphasised the importance of the MHFA program. Across this one university, more than 650 staff members are proficient in MHFA. Students are also encouraged to participate, including student representatives, peer supporters and resident wardens.

Join the global movement

Why wait? Join the international league of Mental Health First Aiders today and empower yourself to provide aid for someone experiencing a mental health concern. With just two days of training, you could help change someone’s entire life.

Steph Downing
Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.
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