Aim: To describe the development of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programme in Australia, its roll-out in other countries and evaluation studies which have been carried out.
Methods: A description of the programme's development and evaluation, its cultural adaptations and its dissemination in seven countries.
Results: The programme was developed in Australia in 2001. By the end of 2007, there were 600 instructors and 55,000 people trained as mental health first aiders. A number of evaluations have been carried out, including two randomized controlled trials that showed changes in knowledge, attitudes and first aid behaviours. Special adaptations of the course have been rolled out for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and some non-English speaking immigrant groups. The course has spread to seven other countries with varying degrees of penetration. In all countries, the programme has been initially supported by government funding. Independent evaluations have been carried out in Scotland and Ireland.
Conclusions: The concept of first aid by the public for physical health crises is familiar in many countries. This has made it relatively easy to extend this approach to early intervention by members of the public for mental disorders and crises. Through MHFA training, the whole of a community can assist formal mental health services in early intervention for mental disorders.
© 2008 The Authors.