Mental Health First Aid course

Men's Health, Women's Health | 4 years ago

Being Prepared for The Unexpected: Mental Health First Aid at a Glance

To support healthy, growing communities, Carolinas HealthCare System offers a free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course that empowers people to respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives individuals the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. With more than 10,000 individuals trained across the Carolinas, we asked the Behavioral Health team at Carolinas HealthCare System about the programs impact and its importance for North Carolina and beyond.

How does MHFA support the growth of healthy communities?

There are three main reasons people don’t seek help for mental illness:

  • Cost of treatment
  • Access to care
  • Stigma

Healthcare systems traditionally work on access and cost but often don’t realize we can affect stigma today, tomorrow, right now. Providing education and a conversation framework for community members to talk about mental health issues is a crucial way to break down the barriers to getting effective mental healthcare. And Mental Health First Aid does that.

What is the need for MHFA in your community?

The communities we serve are like communities all around the country. We have conversations with teachers, police departments, Departments of Health and Human Services, colleges and Universities every day. Through a collaborative effort with other partners in the area, we have trained all of CMPD officers and are getting ready to pilot a section of the curriculum geared towards EMS/Fire department workers. By June of this year, we will have trained all Charlotte Fire Department in Mental Health First Aid.

Names change but the stories are similar: people need help dealing with mental health challenges. In some ways, MHFA as a curriculum becomes a catalyst to a fantastic conversation and to collaboration that happens when groups engage for a whole day around these difficult topics they face. Participants walk away with new ideas to put into practice the very next day.

How is your organization leading the way in delivering the program?

In 2014, we implemented a robust MHFA program. Currently, we have 140 active instructors; together they’ve taught close to 662 classes to more than 10,700 people in the Carolinas. That’s more than were trained in the entire state when we began our program, and our system has now trained about a third of all Mental Health First Aiders in North Carolina to date.

How can this be part of a national trend?

We are part of the national trend. The state of NC now supports MHFA in many ways, helped by the energy and inspiration from programs like ours. Together we’ve taught over 34,000 people! We tie our work to the Be 1 in a Million Campaign every chance we get because being part of something bigger helps to communicate the significance of this movement.


To sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course close to you, please visit Carolinas HealthCare System’s Mental Health First Aid site.