Training the trainers - Mental Health First Aid

Friday, 16 March 2012 – Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement
Training the trainers - Mental Health First Aid

The Public Health Agency (PHA) welcomes 30 newly qualified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainers within the community, voluntary and statutory sectors. These additional trainers can now train others in MHFA, to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems, provide initial help, and to guide a person towards appropriate professional support.

In Northern Ireland at least one in five people experience mental health problems and the stigma that still surrounds this can prevent people seeking help. Making MHFA training available in local communities and within local organisations is very important. Similar to physical ‘First Aid’, a person trained in MHFA can help someone who may be developing a mental health problem, or who is in a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional treatment is received or the crisis resolves.

While presenting the certificates, Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, PHA, said: “Since its inception in 2009, the PHA has been involved in supporting the ongoing development and roll out of Mental Health First Aid training. This training is important as some people with mental health difficulties may be unable to think clearly, may not realise they need assistance or that effective help is available.

“We know that in a mental health crisis situation, the helper’s actions can affect how quickly the person gets appropriate professional help, which in turn can influence their long-term mental and emotional wellbeing. It is therefore vital that the helper is trained to be as effective as possible in this area, particularly as professional help may not always be immediately available.

“I am delighted that we are able to increase the number of trainers and therefore the numbers of people trained, from all walks of life, who are likely to come into contact with vulnerable people. With MHFA training, they can provide that vital, first intervention that will make a positive and immediate difference to those in distress.”

The aims of MHFA are to:

  • preserve life where a person may be a danger to themselves or others
  • provide help to prevent the mental health problem becoming more serious
  • promote the recovery of good mental health
  • provide comfort to a person experiencing a mental health problem

The 30 newly qualified MHFA instructors successfully completed the five day ‘Training for Trainers’ programme, 12 at the Prison Service College, Millisle (27 Feb – 2 March) and 18 at Antrim Civic Centre (5 – 9 March); course participants came from Northern Ireland’s statutory, community and voluntary sectors. 

For further information on MHFA training, contact Helen Gibson, Tel: (028) 3741 4606, Email:  helen.gibson@hscni.net

Further information

Media - contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9055 3663.

Mental Health First Aid training - contact Helen Gibson, Tel: (028) 3741 4606, Email:  helen.gibson@hscni.net

Picture caption:

Pictured with Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, Public Health Agency (PHA) (middle front, sitting) and Governor Taylor, Northern Ireland Prison Service (right, standing) are 11 of the 30 newly qualified PHA Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainers, from the community, voluntary and statutory sectors, who can now train others in MHFA, to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems, provide initial help, and to guide a person towards appropriate professional support.  Also pictured are the four MHFA trainers, this training course was held at the Northern Ireland Prison Service College, Millisle, a second course was delivered at Antrim Civic Centre.

Notes to the editor

  • MHFA training is aimed at a range of people who may come into contact with those experiencing mental health difficulties and crises. They include health workers, teachers, front line public sector, voluntary and community sector workers as well as members of the general public.
    • It is 12 hours of evidence-based training, teaching participants how to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems e.g. depression, anxiety and psychosis.
      • Each course is delivered by two MHFA instructors, usually over two consecutive days to a maximum of 20 delegates.
      • Participants are expected to attend all sessions of the training. A certificate and resource manual with supporting information is provided when the course is complete.
      • Topics covered include:
        • What is meant by mental health/mental ill health?
        • Dealing with crisis situations such as suicidal behaviour, self harm, panic attacks and acute psychotic behaviour
        • Recognising the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance use disorders
        • Where and how to get help
        • Self help strategies
  • Participants on the Millisle ‘MHFA Training for Trainers’ course received their certificates on Friday 2 March.  PHA would like to thank the Northern Ireland Prison Service for the use of their college premises, hospitality and the support from their staff. 
  • Participants on the Antrim ‘MHFA Training for Trainers’ course received their certificates on Friday 9 March.