What is Mental Health First Aid?
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Mental health issues are common, particularly anxiety and depression, as well as those linked with alcohol and drug misuse. Studies have revealed that one in four people in the UK encounter some kind of mental health issue during the given year.
Mental health is associated with stigma. Not having appropriate knowledge about mental health can lead to negative opinions and behaviours towards those experiencing mental health issues. This is the reason why some people may struggle to open up about their mental health issues and instead hide their difficulties as they feel ashamed. This prevents them from seeking help and leads to their issues worsening.
We all know what first aid is and most of us know why it is important to act in an emergency. Giving the help required to an ill or injured person can prevent further harm and injuries, promote their recovery, and may even save their lives.
We don’t think of offering first aid in the same way when it comes to someone that has a mental health issue or crisis. The initial help given to someone experiencing mental health issues until professional help arrives, is mental health first aid. Some may think that mental health first aid only can be provided by a health professional. However, this first aid help is commonly provided by someone in the person’s social network. Mental health first aid is not about providing diagnosis or therapy, it’s about offering and providing initial help to the person. Its good to have mental health first aid knowledge, to be able to spot the early indicators of mental health issues. You may need this knowledge to help someone in your family, friendship group or a colleague. Knowing how to help someone with mental health issues may lead to detecting warnings signs of mental health crisis and prevent the person from further harm and direct them to the appropriate treatment and support.
The COVID-19 outbreak created turmoil and put a stop to everyone’s daily routines. Many people have been dealing with work uncertainty, having to look after their children fulltime and so on. As adults we have been finding this very distressing. Children have also been experiencing sudden changes in their lifestyle and this can have had a negative impact on their wellbeing too. Since the pandemic, studies have shown that twice as many adults in the UK have been reporting symptoms of depression. Those with existing mental health issues have been showing the largest deterioration in mental health during lockdown.
There is a first aid action plan for mental health first aid as there is for first aid. In first aid we often refer to an acronym called DRABC that helps us detect any life threatening illnesses or injuries in an emergency.
In mental health first aid we refer to an acronym called ALGEE.
A - approach the person, assess the situation and assist them with any crisis (ask questions)
L - listen and communicate (don’t be critical, be empathetic and validate their feelings)
G - give the person the support and information they require (emotional support, practical help, information about the relevant mental health issue)
E - encourage the person to seek relevant professional support (medication, counselling, therapy)
E – encourage the person to seek other support (self-care strategies, family, friends, colleagues, telephone/online, support groups).
It’s important we look after our mental health and support those experiencing mental health issues. Don’t be afraid to approach someone if you are suspecting that they are experiencing mental health issues. Remember that it’s when you don’t do anything that the person may deteriorate. Be observant of changes of behaviour and this might not be obvious at first, specially during the pandemic when we have all distanced ourselves from each other. Check-in on each other and be there for one another. Our mental health is as important as our physical health.
For more resources, visit MHFA England:
Written by Fi Ramos, Public Health Nurse & First Aid Instructor at Act2care.
Information on this site is evidence based and provided to create awareness and advice only. If you are worried about a condition, seek medical advice.
Theoretical first aid tips are beneficial, however practical demonstrations and exercises are necessary for gaining high standard of first aid knowledge and skills.
If you are interested in gaining first aid skills, contact Fi to find our more about our paediatric first aid classes: