Why You Should Know MHFA and MHL

by Dr Margaret Aranda

There is still stigma attached to mental health problems, so it is good to be literate with the names and descriptions of several mental health problems, so we institute change. This is especially important for school-aged youth, teens and young adults. There’s a nice Power Point slide show here for our youth.

These two acronyms should be known by all parents, educators, medical clinicians and researchers: MHFA and MHL.

Let’s see how commonly these terms exist on the Internet. On October 8, 2016, a Google search yielded:

  • MHFA = “(mental health) and (first aid)”
  • MHL = “(mental health) and (literacy)”
  • 12.1 million and 6.31 million hits

So let’s learn about its relevance:

  • Mental wounds and crises regularly occur; each one of us is bound to be in the presence of someone having a crisis (or have one ourselves).
  • It is hard for many people to ask for help
  • Some individuals may not even know that they need help
  • Literacy with vocabulary and definitions of mental health applies a temporary ‘bandage’
  • A MHFA responder offers general ‘first aid’ until treatment and/or support occurs
  • The MHFA individual may make an immediate difference

In 2001, Australia’s Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm created the first Mental Health First Aid Program. They are married (See Image 2). Betty became a mental health advocate after her struggle with major depression. She is the CEO of MHFA Australia and Adjunct Professor of Deakin University. Anthony is a mental health researcher; together, they have Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national non-profit health promotion charity focused on training and research.

Today, MHFA certification with certified training is available in 20 countries. The USA adopted MHFA in 2008, and the Youth Program pilot began in 2012.

Applying the MHFA Program, we see that the following diagnoses are taught to improve literacy in these subjects and why and how they warrant first aid. Hereis a list of Course learning objectives and the Course agenda. Course participants are taught to (1) recognize the common signs and symptoms and (2) to get support for these mental health problems:

  • Aggression
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicide – thought and behaviour
  • Self-injury
  • Substance Abuse
  • Panic attacks
  • Trauma, both Adult and Children
  • Severe Psychosis

1 in 5 people in the world have a mental illness. There is a great need to publicise this critical mental health first aid Class, as many world-wide research results show that mental health is still a fundamental issue, especially for our youth.

We’re all responsible for keeping one another healthy, as there aren’t enough resources to fill all needs. Perhaps if we could learn to be a comprehensive ‘help’ to others, our ‘bandage’ of first aid will prevent larger complications. Because when a person is clearly having a meltdown in front of you or your children, it is good to know that there is an effective way to most optimally handle it. Others have gone before you. It’s not new.

If you are in a leadership position on social media, I think it is reasonable to take this Course so you are armed to recognise, categorise and assist in professionally treating mental health problems before some one harms themselves.

Today, this is just common sense.


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