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Author's profile photo Annette Jann

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) – Doing nothing is not an option

In Germany everyone who holds a drivers license needed to attend a First Aid course. Nowadays these trainings are already held in kindergarden and schools. Therefor the number of Germans that attended a First Aid training is over 90%. So most at least in theory know the ABC (airway, breathing and cardio) and how to put a person into a recovery position.

But what if the hurt is not physical?

Why should you care?

Did you know that 25% of the global population develops a mental health problem at least once in their lifetime – for Germany it is 40%. This is quite a number.  And I am sure in our current society  and times each of you already got directly or indirectly in contact with mental health problems, cases of burn-out and the rise of mental health issues during the pandemic.

Would you know how to react if you experience such a situation within your family and friends, at work or your community? And would you know how to help others in such a time of need?

Mental disorders and psychological crises tend to get worse over time when they are pushed aside or ignored. So an early recognition is important  for a successful therapy and benefits a good outcome for the effected person. The effected person itself is often afraid to speak up or seek help not to get stigmatised. And people close to them do not dare to or know how to address their observations of change in behaviours or alarming signals amongst their family members, friends or colleagues.

Still, doing nothing is not an option. And what to do, is actually something you can learn and practice.

What is the MHFA?

The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) International is a non-profit organisation, that develops, delivers and evaluates accredited mental health training programs to increase the number of people who are ready to provide first aid with mental health issues. Starting 2000 in Australia MHFA International turned into a world wide movement with the programs now being held in 24 countries and more than 4 million people already trained worldwide.

Their 12-hour training for lay attendees, provides basic knowledge of mental disorders. They enable attendees to access people with beginning mental disorders or in crisis to provide first aid and to give advice for professional help.

In Germany the “Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit” based in Mannheim serves as the MHFA hub and brought that program with support of the Dietmar-Hopp Foundation to Germany. You can book their courses as individuals, companies, schools and organisations. They also provide train the trainer courses to help the program scale.

What do you learn?

The lay attendees of the training acquire basic knowledge to identify early symptoms of mental health problems and psychological crisis, such as depression, burn-out, suicidal tendency, anxiety, psychosis or substance abuse. They learn how to address their observation in a respectful way, openly and empathically listen and communicate with the effected person and guide towards professional support.

The training provides a lot of opportunities for exercises and exchange, to overcome resentments and become more comfortable reacting attentive in such situations.

Becoming a Mental Health First Aider

Though in situations as above I could thankfully often rely on my intuition, I learned so much in addition from the MHFA training. You get more sensible, dare to address things earlier and understand how important it is to just do something. Every additional one being there for others in times of psychological crises can have an impact and be the starting point of a change.

Hopefully the training will also turn into a standard training not only for people in education and leadership, but anyone in a supportive and caring society. By the way, in Australia there are already nearly 1 Million trained Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) – in Germany so far less than 200.

So to all of you, consider taking the course.

You find more info at:

German info and training classes: 

(I would like to take the opportunity to thank the ZI Mannheim and my highly motivated and engaged MHFA trainer Heike Wagner-Hollatz for such an important experience.)

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      Author's profile photo Lew Dawro
      Lew Dawro

      Mental Health First Aid provides improved knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, practical skills to provide appropriate first aid, decrease Stigma and confidence in providing first aid to associates and initiate conversation on mental health. MHFA is just as important as physical first-aid knowledge, and having some understanding about mental health issues should be compulsory.

      Author's profile photo Bernhard Luecke
      Bernhard Luecke

      Thanks so much for sharing. Was not at all aware!