Mental Health First Aid

What is Mental Health First Aid Canada?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Just as physical first aid is administered to an injured person before medical treatment can be obtained, MHFA is given until appropriate treatment is found or until the crisis is resolved.

The MHFA Canada program aims to improve mental health literacy, and provide the skills and knowledge to help people better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, a family member, a friend or a colleague.

Who Takes MHFA?
Everyone. Anyone can benefit from MHFA, and more than 100,000 Canadians have been trained already. From psychological health and safety in the workplace to schools and community groups to people in Northern Canada, MHFA has had a positive and long lasting impact on Canadians from coast to coast. 

Examples of groups that have taken MHFA:

  • Families affected by mental health problems
  • Secondary and post-secondary instructors, counselors, and administrators
  • Health service providers
  • Corporations
  • Emergency workers including fire, ambulance, and police services
  • Frontline workers who deal with the public
  • Volunteers
  • Human resources professionals
  • Employers and managers
  • Community groups including new immigrants, homelessness advocates, and chronic disability support services

MHFA is well suited to all workplaces seeking to reduce incidences of mental health problems and issues. Read more

In addition, MHFA is a tool organizations are using to meet the voluntary requirements of the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the WorkplaceRead more

Course Options

Basic Mental Health First Aid
MHFA Basic was developed to help people provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. MHFA Basic teaches participants to recognize the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and to refer people to appropriate supports. The course does not train people to be therapists, counselors, or mental health professionals. The philosophy behind MHFA is that mental health crisis, such as suicidal and self-harming actions, may be avoided through early intervention. If a crisis does arise, then members of the public can take action that may reduce the harm that could result.

  • 12 hours over two days
  • In-house and public courses
  • 5 day course to become an instructor 

Mental Health First Aid for Adults who Interact with Youth
MHFA for Adults Who Interact with Youth focuses on mental health problems and first aid for youth ages 12 to 24. Mental health problems often first develop during adolescence or early adulthood, with half of all mental disorders beginning by age 14, and 75 per cent beginning by age 24. The information in this course is designed to be sensitive to the unique aspects of mental health problems in young people. It is meant to assist education professionals, health providers, parents and other adults in the identification of mental health problems and appropriate first aid intervention strategies. In addition to the topics covered in MHFA Basic, this course focuses on eating disorders and deliberate self-harm.

  • 14 hours over two days
  • In-house and public courses
  • 5.5 day course to become an instructor

Read more

Mental Health First Aid for Northern Peoples
MHFA for Northern Peoples was jointly developed by Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon. It is designed specifically for use in Canada’s three territories and celebrates the uniqueness of Northern life and Northern peoples. This adaptation is designed to appeal to Northern peoples generally, and addresses challenges such isolation, seasonal affective disorder, and unique Northern supports. While this course does represent the experiences of Aboriginal peoples as a reflection of the Northern demographic, it is not intended to be a pan-Aboriginal product.

  • 18-20 hours over three days
  • In-house and public courses
  • 6 day course to become an instructor

Topics Covered

  • Substance-related disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Eating disorders (Youth course)
  • Deliberate self-injury (Youth course, Northern Peoples course)

Crisis intervention training provided for:

  • Overdose
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Panic attack
  • Psychotic episode
  • Acute stress reaction

Ongoing Course Development
MHFA continues to create versions of the course that address unique circumstances within the Canadian population. Working with partners, subject matter experts, and evaluation teams, the following courses are currently in development:

  • Mental Health First aid – First Nations
  • Mental Health First Aid – Inuit
  • Mental Health First Aid – Seniors

Evidence of Impact
MHFA is an international program active in over 20 countries. Since 2007, more than 100,000 Canadians have been trained in MHFA. International research has shown that this evidence-based course offers significant positive impacts for participants and their workplaces, communities, and families, namely:

  • Significantly greater recognition of the most common mental health problems
  • Decreased social distance from people with mental health problems
  • Increased confidence in providing help to others
  • Improved mental health of the MHFA participant her/himself

To find a course, book a training, and to read the evidence reviews, please visit

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