First aid medical emergency is not new to us. There’s CPR when a person is unconscious and unresponsive. You can administer the Heimlich maneuver to someone who is choking. There’s RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for a sprain. 

But how about first aid for mental illness? How do you help someone experiencing a nervous breakdown? How do you talk to someone who has suicidal thoughts? How will you know if someone is on the verge of developing a mental illness? 

That’s what emergency mental assistance is for, and you can be trained to be a mental health first aider too. All you need is compassion and the proper training to become an advocate of mental health first aid. 

What Is Mental Health First Aid?

The goal of mental health first aid is to help detect, understand, and how to appropriately respond to a mental health issue. This involves identifying the presence of mental illness and how to manage a crisis such as panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, or suicide. 

A mental health first aid course includes educating the participants of risk factors and warning signs to look out for in a person developing a mental illness. The course aims to enlighten mental health advocates of the positive impact of their job on their community and an overview of the common mental health treatments. 

A mental illness first aid course includes:

  • Simulations and role-playing 
  • Assess situations on a mental health crisis
  • Education on signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses (e.g., anxiety disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, or substance use)
  • Early detection of a mental illness for immediate intervention
  • How to talk and use the right words when talking to someone who needs psychiatric help
  • Provide initial assistance
  • Educate on short-term and long-term interventions and treatment
  • Helping a patient connect to the right mental health professional 
  • Help find support groups and resources to aid for mental health

Why Is Mental Health First Aid Important?

Mental health first aid is vital in helping someone experiencing mental issues. Not all people have the courage to admit that they are experiencing a psychiatric problem. Unfortunately, a mental illness, when not diagnosed and treated promptly, may worsen. Mental illnesses are a serious matter; that is why a first aider is essential to avoid these circumstances. 

Related: Why We Should Talk About Our Mental Health

You can help someone get treated. 

A person experiencing a mental health issue needs to seek professional treatment right away. With the proper training, a mental wellness advocate can identify, understand and respond to anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and many more. One in five American adults is affected by mental problems each year, which means you may have a friend or loved one experiencing it. 

Being a mental health first aider does not mean you can prescribe medications, but you are the key to getting the proper help they need. Also, you can consider yourself as a helping hand and friend to those who need your help.


You can put a stop to the stigma associated with mental problems.

Yes, there is still a stigma associated when seeking help with mental issues. This causes other people not to seek or delay getting the help they need. When a person waits for longer and delays treatment, it’s harder to recover. As a mental wellness advocate, you can help stop the stigma associated with mental issues. This is a helpful step that positively impacts your family and the community. 

You can save lives.

As you become a mental health advocate, you can save lives. You can be the key for someone to live a productive life when you can help refer them to the right treatment. You can help the youth, teenagers, and adults be a valuable member of the community. More importantly, you can save lives for those who have suicidal tendencies

What Skills Do a Mental Health First Aider Need?

The skills needed to become a mental health first aider are teachable and can be acquired through proper training. If you find a course on mental health first aid, you will be trained in the skills and knowledge to flourish on the job. 

Remember the acronym: ADVOCATE 

  • Assessment: You will learn how to assess signs and symptoms of a mental illness.
  • Discernment: The ability to evaluate and discern the situation well. 
  • Versatility: You can adapt to different situations and cases of the patient. 
  • Open Communication: Learn to be a good listener with no judgment. 
  • Calmness: Learn how to be calm in approaching each situation. 
  • Attitude: A non-judgemental attitude can help a patient open up. 
  • Trust: You need to earn the trust of a patient so you can do your job. 
  • Empathy and Encouragement: You need to show your sincere care and encouragement.

These are skills that can be easily learned and can be a useful life skill as well. With the right training, information, and skills, you can help save those who are struggling with depression and anxiety. You can make a big difference in your family, loved ones, and community. 

How to Become a Mental Health Advocate?

If you want to become a mental health advocate, educate yourself on the issues in mental health. Learn what are the common types of mental problems, symptoms, warning signs, and age-appropriate approach for their care. 

Whether you are an employee, business owner, human resource personnel, university staff, law enforcement, faith community leader, emergency medical responder, military personnel, or a veteran, you can be a mental health advocate. Anyone can make a positive impact on someone else’s life. You can help a loved one overcome a mental illness

You can find a course on mental health first aid and enroll yourself. If you are a counselor, therapist, or social worker, you can enroll yourself in continuing online education. With Kentucky Counseling Center Continuing Online Education, you can study online on approved self-learning courses that can broaden your knowledge and skills in mental health first aid. Make a difference, save lives, and stop the stigma on mental illness.

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