What is mental health first aid?

Expert shares how to support someone through a mental health crisis.
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Chances are that you’ve either completed or know someone who has completed a first aid course. 

No matter the reason for enrolling, participants walk away with the knowledge to provide basic first aid care to stabalise a patient before first responders can arrive. 

Unfortunately, despite the importance of knowing these skills, a Red Cross study identified that only one in five Australians are trained in first aid, one of the lowest rates in the world.

WATCH NOW: Is someone you love suffering in silence? Here’s what to do. Article continues after video. 

Even fewer Australians have completed a mental health first aid course, despite two in five Australians confirming they have suffered from poor mental health in the last twelve months alone, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 

Mental Health First Aid Crises Training Facilitator Stella Ladikos tells New Idea that positively, more and more Australians are enrolling in Mental Health First Aid courses, designed to equip participants with the skills to treat the mind, and not the body. 

“[A] mental health first aid [course] is very similar to the physical first aid course where it trains you to be a first responder. But rather than responding to physical or other medical crises, you are responding to mental health crises,” Stella says. 

“Feedback I always get, is I wish I heard about this course sooner or more people need to do this course. It’s often not until you actually do it that you understand the merit of it. The key takeaway is how to have a conversation with someone because you learn the skills to be able to do it effectively. And how to understand people as well.”

Stella Ladikos trains thousands of Aussies every year in Mental Health First Aid (Credit: Supplied)

According to Stella, the course is designed to be “broad, inclusive, and accessible” and is suitable for most people, from teachers to parents to corporate workers. 

“At least 60-70% [of participants] also struggle with their own mental health concerns as well.”

“The point of the course isn’t learning how to treat yourself, or learning self-help strategies or thinks like that, but it is still accessible for you [if you struggle from poor mental health].”

Since 2000, over one million Aussies have completed a mental health first aid course (Credit: Supplied)

So for those looking to enroll in a Mental Health First Aid course, what are some of the skills they can takeaway and apply to their real-life interactions with others? 

“Very much like physical first aid, they never teach you how to be a doctor or paramedic or anything like that, it essentially trains you how to be a first responder, how to know the warning signs, some ways to keep the person safe until the appropriate professional health arrives,” Stella tells us. 

“The course is really comprehensive. It covers things all the way from what you do if someone is having a panic attack all the way to what to do if someone is suicidal. Say someone is just struggling a little bit, or they’ve experienced some depression or some traumatic event, [you’ll learn] how to intervene,” she adds. 

If you are interested in signing up for the two-day course which runs both in person, hybrid, or fully online, more information can be found online at Mental Health First Aid Australia or at Meraki Mental Health Training.  

If you or a loved one are struggling, help is available. Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or visit

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