Mental Health First Aid 101

March 26, 2024

Early on in life, kids are taught about 911. They’re taught to dial the number in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or if someone they live with is experiencing a calamitous physical event. 


The value of 911 is carried with individuals their entire lives, as if it’s an automatic reflex. Mental Health First Aid could be just as valuable for an individual experiencing an emotional or behavioral health crisis. 


Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based set of practices that equips individuals with the necessary training and skills to respond to and support others who are experiencing a crisis. In fact, those who administer the training hope to make it as common as CPR training, in part because the speed with which an individual in crisis receives care is especially influential on the outcome they experience.


Mental Health First Aid, which is managed, operated and disseminated by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, is a skillset that could be beneficial in a variety of settings — from the corporate world to schools to correctional institutions to the community level. The course covers a wealth of information and is anchored by beliefs focused on recovery and resiliency for the individual experiencing a crisis.


Those who enroll in a course learn about a number of conditions, including psychosis, depression and mood disorders, anxiety and trauma, as well as substance abuse disorders. They are equipped with an action plan that assesses for risk of suicide or harm, refrains from judgement, offers reassurance, and encourages professional help, among other useful strategies. 


Through role playing and activities, those enrolled in the course learn how to approach and address situations related to panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, delusions or hallucinations, overdose or withdrawal, and the responses associated with a traumatic event.


Ultimately, Mental Health First Aid is a way to get people in crisis connected with care. Due to the ongoing and increasing demand for care, at a time when many areas are experiencing a mental health provider shortage, Mental Health First Aid acts as a compassionate, peer-to-peer response. And, that type of evidence-based response could change the trajectory of individual lives.


One case study in particular, with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, demonstrated the value of Mental Health First Aid training for its ability to de-escalate situations, leading to better outcomes than could have otherwise unfolded.


At Quartet Health, and its organizational partner innovaTel, we find tremendous upside in the availability of Mental Health First Aid, knowing it provides an informed stop-gap for individuals in crisis before they receive professional support. In fact, Quartet’s Whole Health program, designed for patients navigating a serious mental illness, is informed by the principles embraced by Mental Health First Aid. 


By offering comprehensive support, to include medication management, transportation support and treatment navigation — among other services — the Whole Health program takes into account all of the determinants and challenges an individual faces. And it offers individuals the guidance that is needed to manage the complexities of their circumstances, with the ultimate goal of improved outcomes.

Learn more here.

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