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What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an international mental health awareness and skills programme developed in Australia in 2000 and now internationally recognised in over 25 countries. Mental Health First Aiders learn how to spot the signs and symptoms of a range of mental health issues. They are taught how to provide help on a first aid basis and effectively guide the person towards the right support services. 

The history of MHFA

MHFA came to England in 2007 and was developed and launched under the umbrella of the Department of Health: National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) as part of a national approach to improving public mental health.


In 2009 MHFA England became a Community Interest Company (CIC).

The vision of MHFA England is to normalise society’s attitudes and behaviours around mental health, by developing the skills needed to look after our own and others’ wellbeing.

The skills learnt on a MHFA course:

+ Increase knowledge and confidence in how to support someone experiencing a mental health issue


+ Improve attitudes towards mental health issues, reducing stigma whilst normalising mental ill health to promote more empathetic approaches


+ Are used by between 68.5% - 88% of Mental Health First Aiders if they encounter someone experiencing mental ill health with many providing support to more than one person


+ Have a direct positive impact on attendees’ own mental health, with many reporting an increased ability to manage their own mental health

“MHFA training appears to increase the help and support provided by health trainers to clients living with mental health problems, through the provision of a more comfortable environment for clients to discuss mental health problems and the provision of help and guidance towards appropriate support”


Graeme Potter, Public Health & Wellbeing Directorate, NHS West Sussex

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