Experiences in applying skills learned in a Mental Health First Aid training course: A qualitative study of participants' stories

ORYGEN Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Locked Bag 10, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.
BMC Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 2.21). 02/2005; 5(1):43. DOI: 10.1186/1471-244X-5-43
Source: PubMed


Given the high prevalence of mental disorders and the comparatively low rate of professional help-seeking, it is useful for members of the public to have some skills in how to assist people developing mental disorders. A Mental Health First Aid course has been developed to provide these skills. Two randomized controlled trials of this course have shown positive effects on participants' knowledge, attitudes and behavior. However, these trials have provided limited data on participants' subsequent experiences in providing first aid. To remedy this, a study was carried out gathering stories from participants in one of the trials, 19-21 months post-training.
Former course participants were contacted and sent a questionnaire either by post or via the internet. Responses were received from 94 out of the 131 trainees who were contacted. The questionnaire asked about whether the participant had experienced a post-training situation where someone appeared to have a mental health problem and, if so, asked questions about that experience.
Post-training experiences were reported by 78% of respondents. Five key points emerged from the qualitative data: (1) the majority of respondents had had some direct experience of a situation where mental health issues were salient and the course enabled them to take steps that led to better effects than otherwise might have been the case; (2) positive effects were experienced in terms of increased empathy and confidence, as well as being better able to handle crises; (3) the positive effects were experienced by a wide range of people with varied expectations and needs; (4) there was no evidence of people over-reaching themselves because of over-confidence and (5) those who attended were able to identify quite specific benefits and many thought the course not only very useful, but were keen to see it repeated and extended.
The qualitative data confirm that most members of the public who receive Mental Health First Aid training subsequently provide support to people with mental health problems and that this support generally has positive effects.

Download full-text


Available from: Stephen Mugford, Mar 18, 2014
  • Source
    • "A qualitative design including focus groups was chosen for the present study. A structured interview guide, based on the questions used in Jorm et al's (2005) qualitative study from Australia, was used to collect data in a consistent way (see Appendix 1). The interviews were carried out by two researchers, recorded and transcribed shortly after the interviews . "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Restricted mental health literacy and stigma are barriers to treatment of mental disorders. A Mental Health First Aid training program was tested for implementation in Sweden among employees in the public sector. The aim of the present qualitative study was to explore participants' experiences of the program in more depth, in conjunction with a randomized controlled study. Twenty four persons participated in a total of six focus groups 6-8 months after program participation. Data were analyzed using content analysis. The analysis resulted in five categories illustrating the participants' experiences of the course: increased awareness, knowledge and understanding; influence on attitude and approach; tool box and confidence; feedback on content and layout; and tangible examples of applied knowledge. The most central finding is the fruitfulness of the program's practical focus and use, the increased confidence and inclination to act following program participation, and the importance of experienced instructors.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Community Mental Health Journal
    • "The MHFA programme is a 12-hour manualised programme for professionals and non-professionals who seek to be better prepared to assist people with mental health issues (Jorm, Kitchener , Kanowski, & Kelly, 2007). The programme is framed by the theoretical principles, first that stigma is often attached to mental illness, but can be reduced through education and raising awareness; and second that people are best supported by their family, friends, colleagues or the other communities in which they are located (Jorm et al., 2005). People who complete the MHFA course are not meant to be substitutes for health professionals (Jorm, Morgan, & Wright, 2008), but rather to augment the initial responses from people who live in the community to people in distress or on the verge of a mental health emergency "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Evidence-based interventions are an essential part of delivering contemporary mental health services. Many such interventions, however, are developed with and for mainstream population groups. Practitioners and researchers alike will often adapt tools, practices, processes or programmes to meet the needs of culturally diverse populations groups, but wonder if and how such adaptations will affect outcomes. This paper considers the processes by which evidence-based interventions can be adapted by health professionals in any context; and includes an example of a successful cultural adaptation to an evidence-based intervention. The successful implementation of the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid programme in Australia illustrates the potential for adapted interventions to support improvements in the health outcomes of people from culturally diverse backgrounds. The paper concludes by outlining the steps mental health professionals can take when adapting evidence-based interventions for use in their own workplace settings.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Issues in Mental Health Nursing
    • "The MHFA course has been extensively evaluated, with the evidence suggesting that participants demonstrate improved knowledge of mental illnesses and mental health first aid skills, more positive attitudes towards appropriate psychological and pharmacological treatments, more confidence in providing support to a person experiencing a mental illness and reduced stigma towards people with mental illness, with these effects lasting up to 6 months after the completion of training [9-12]. Studies also indicate that people utilise the skills they are taught in the course in real life [13]. This suggests that MHFA training has practical value in promoting effective helping behaviours, benefiting individuals and communities. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Courses such as Mental Health First Aid equip members of the public to perform appropriate helping behaviours towards people experiencing a mental illness or mental health crisis. However, studies investigating the general public's knowledge and skills in relation to assisting a person with a mental illness are rare. This study assesses the quality of mental health first aid responses by members of the Australian public using data from a national survey. Participants in a national survey of mental health literacy were assigned one of six vignettes (depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia, chronic schizophrenia, social phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder) and asked an open-ended question about how they would help the character in the vignette. The 6,019 respondents were also asked if and how they had helped a person in real life with a similar problem. Responses to these questions were scored using a system based on an action plan developed from expert consensus guidelines on mental health first aid. The quality of responses overall was poor, with participants scoring an average of 2 out of 12. The most commonly reported actions for both questions were listening to the person, providing support and information and encouraging them to seek appropriate professional help. Actions such as assessing and assisting with crisis were rarely mentioned, even for the depression with suicidal thoughts vignette. The quality of the Australian public's mental health first aid knowledge and skills requires substantial improvement. Particular attention should be given to helping people recognise that anxiety disorders such as social phobia require professional help and to improving responses to a suicidal person.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Annals of General Psychiatry
Show more