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Mental Health First Aid – Is it Enough?

Mar 01
At least 1 in 3 Canadians will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives and at least 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem in a year (Mental Health Commission of Canada – MHCC). Recently businesses, hospitals, and first-responder groups have begun to recognize the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace and attempt to address this through Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training.

First developed in 2001 at the Australia National University, MHFA was adapted to Canada by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in 2010. MHFA training is an immersive 12-hour course for recognizing mental health concerns and how to approach them. The course uses the acronym “ALGEE” as a way to cover the bases in a mental health intervention.

A = Assessing the risk
L = Listening non-judgementally
G = Giving reassurance and information
E = Encouraging appropriate professional help
E = encouraging other supports like self-care, self-help strategies

MHFA has gained traction and represents a pivotal point in Mental Health. By encouraging employees and healthcare providers to participate in MHFA training, it becomes easier to talk about mental health in a dignified and open manner. By offering MHFA training alongside CPR training or professional development, the company sends a message to its employees that mental health matters.

But is MHFA training enough? Companies continue to offer general wellness programs and EAP (Employee Assistance Programs), however a wide gap still remains for the individuals who are experiencing mental health problems and need proper assistance. MHFA is a great way to begin the conversation around mental health and take the first steps to educating the employees about what mental health means, yet much is left to be desired when employees ask about next steps and about addressing their own mental health concerns. MHFA’s role is to breakdown the mental health stigma, however without the proper supports and comprehensive network, those who are suffering are still left behind.

In addition to MHFA training, all employees and community members need to have access to comprehensive, evidence-based tools for navigating the mental health sphere and for understanding the information they are receiving. There are many resources for mental health from one-dimensional surveys to links about mental health conditions; this can prove to be extremely overwhelming to someone who is already overwhelmed by their concerns. More often than not, the individual is left with less information, more stress, and no way to address their concerns.

FeelingBetterNow® uses innovative technology to provide a comprehensive mental health navigation and resource network. By providing immediate action plans and evidence-based resources, users are engaged and empowered to play a leading role in their mental health and assist in the recovery of their peers.

MHFA is a first step in a greater mental health strategy. The next step is making sure the tools, resources and supports are accessible and available so employees have access to the best in mental health resources. 

Full Article Link: http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/focus-areas/mental-health-first-aid

Kathleen Qu, M.Sc

Kathleen Qu is the Product Manager of FeelingBetterNow. She has a background in global health and policy research. She is an advocate in breaking down barriers for mental health access.