Background: Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training was developed in Australia to teach members of the public how to give initial help to someone developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis situation. However, this type of training requires adaptation for specific cultural groups in the community. This paper describes the adaptation of the program to create an Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid (AMHFA) course and presents an initial evaluation of its uptake and acceptability.
Methods: To evaluate the program, two types of data were collected: (1) quantitative data on uptake of the course (number of Instructors trained and courses subsequently run by these Instructors); (2) qualitative data on strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for the future derived from interviews with program staff and focus groups with Instructors and community participants.
Results: 199 Aboriginal people were trained as Instructors in a five day Instructor Training Course. With sufficient time following training, the majority of these Instructors subsequently ran 14-hour AMHFA courses for Aboriginal people in their community. Instructors were more likely to run courses if they had prior teaching experience and if there was post-course contact with one of the Trainers of Instructors. Analysis of qualitative data indicated that the Instructor Training Course and the AMHFA course are culturally appropriate, empowering for Aboriginal people, and provided information that was seen as highly relevant and important in assisting Aboriginal people with a mental illness. There were a number of recommendations for improvements.
Conclusion: The AMHFA program is culturally appropriate and acceptable to Aboriginal people. Further work is needed to refine the course and to evaluate its impact on help provided to Aboriginal people with mental health problems.