Common questions about MHFA

More about Mental Health First Aid

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid is a training course designed to give members of the public the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it builds mental health literacy, decreases stigmatizing attitudes, and helps individuals identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.

Canadian statistics show that one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year.  MHFA is an interactive workshop that teaches participants to recognize the signs that a person may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis and how to provide initial help and guide the person to appropriate professional resources.

There are currently seven versions of MHFA with an additional one in development:

  • Basic (12 hours)
  • Adults who Interact with Youth (14 hours)
  • Northern Peoples (18 hours)
  • First Nations (20 hours)
  • Inuit (3 days)
  • Veteran Community (13 hours)
  • Seniors (14 hours)

The course addresses four of the most common and most stigmatized mental health disorders and includes signs/symptoms, risk factors, and crisis first aid for specific situations:

  • Substance-Related Disorders
    • Crisis First Aid for Overdose
  • Mood-Related Disorders
    • Crisis First Aid for Suicidal Behaviour
  • Anxiety and Trauma-related Disorders
    • Crisis First Aid for Panic Attack
    • Crisis First Aid for Acute Stress Reaction
  • Psychotic Disorders
    • Crisis First Aid for Psychotic Episode

Additional sections are included in specific courses:

  • Self-Injury Behaviour (Adults who Interact with Youth, Northern, and Inuit courses)
  • Eating Disorders (Adults who Interact with Youth)
  • Delirium (Seniors)
  • Dementia (Seniors)

MHFA does not teach participants to become therapists or counsellors. Rather, it provides the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that allow someone to offer effective first aid intervention.

Where did Mental Health First Aid start?

Mental Health First Aid was created in Australia in 2001 by Professor Tony Jorm, a respected mental health literacy professor, and Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education. The program was started at the ORYGEN Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, Australia.


Has Mental Health First Aid been replicated in other countries?

Yes. Mental Health First Aid began in Australia and, to date, it has been adapted and provided in 21 countries. MHFA is in Bermuda, Cambodia, Canada, China, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United States, and Wales.


What is the long-term vision for Mental Health First Aid?

MHFA Canada’s vision is of every Canadian in need being within reach of effective mental health first aid.  We expect that Mental Health First Aid will become as common as CPR and Physical First Aid training.

Who should take a Mental Health First Aid course?

Mental Health First Aid is intended for all Canadians. Since 2007, MHFA has been offered in every sector and region of the country, encompassing friends and families of individuals with a mental illness or addiction, workplaces, primary care, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, government, construction, youth and community development programs, first responders, and many others. 


In what languages are MHFA Canada courses available?

MHFA Canada is available in both of Canada’s official languages—English and French. 


How can I suggest versions of the course for other audiences?

We receive numerous suggestions for versions of the MHFA course for specific audiences. Due to the amount of time required to develop (sometimes up to two years) we are unable to undertake them all. If you think there is a need for other versions of the MHFA course, please email us at  

More about Course Content and Delivery

What do Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training participants learn?

The MHFA course does not teach people how to be therapists. It does teach people how to:

  • recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems;
  • provide initial help ; and
  • guide a person toward appropriate professional help.

Just as CPR training helps a layperson with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as suicidal behaviour.

In both situations, the goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help is identified. Individuals with Mental Health First Aid certification learn a single action plan that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports that can be applied in many situations.

Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health problems. These build their understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families and allow them to learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.


What types of crisis interventions are covered?

Participants are taught how to provide effective crisis intervention in a variety of situations:

  • Panic attack
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Substance overdose
  • Acute stress reaction
  • Psychotic episode

An important component of Mental Health First Aid training is the opportunity to practice the intervention strategy rather than to just learn about it. This simple experience can make it easier to apply the knowledge in a real-life situation.

In addition to crisis interventions, participants learn how to have confident and effective conversations about mental health, regardless of whether someone is in crisis or not. This includes recognizing the signs and symptoms of an emerging mental health problem, or noticing a change in someone’s behaviour and starting a conversation with that person.


Does the MHFA course teach about suicide prevention?

MHFA discusses suicide and suicide prevention and offers crisis first aid training for suicidal behaviour.


What is the difference between MHFA and ASIST?

Where ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) focuses specifically on suicidal behaviour and suicide prevention, MHFA includes the topic of suicide within a wider range of mental health disorders. Much like how physical First Aid addresses a myriad of health issues while CPR is training for one specific health issue.


Are there differences between Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and Psychological First Aid?

The main differences between MHFA and Psychological First Aid (PFA) are as follows:

  • MHFA has a broader focus. We have defined it as: “Mental health first aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves“. Thus, it includes the full range of developing mental disorders and associated crises. PFA is usually focused on response to disasters.
  • MHFA does give some training on how to respond to a person who has experienced a traumatic event. This training is more detailed in Psychological First Aid.
  • Psychological First Aid is often delivered to people with some specialist mental health training. MHFA training is designed to also be appropriate for non-health professionals.+


Is there an audio version of the manual available?

Currently, we do not have an audio version of our manuals.


Can I get a manual without attending the training?

No, manuals are provided during the course to MHFA participants only.


Do I need to have a medical background to learn from this course?

No. Anyone can benefit from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). It is open to members of the general public. Families affected by mental health problems, teachers, health service providers, emergency workers, frontline workers who deal with the public, volunteers, human resources professionals, employers, and community groups are just a few of the groups who have benefited from MHFA.


Can the course be shorter?

Since being developed in 2001, this course has been evaluated and assessed for its short- and long-term impacts on participants. The course is as short as it can be and still effectively meet the goals of increased awareness, decreased stigma, and increased helping behaviour. The MHFA course is standardized across Canada to be offered in its entirety. If you are concerned about taking too much time away from work all at once on a 2-day course, the material in the MHFA BASIC and MHFA Adults who Interact with Youth courses can be offered in two non-consecutive days or four modules over a short period of time.


Is there a group discount?

There is no group discount for taking a course with MHFA Canada. Our network of instructors, who work independently, may have a different policy regarding group discounts.


For what age range is this course most appropriate?

MHFA courses are meant for adults (18+) and focus on how adults can provide effective help with mental health issues. The MHFA Adults Who Interact with Youth course is unique because it is for people over the age of 16. It teaches specifically about the youth population aged 12 to 25.

The reason we recommend the course to adults is because the content can be beyond the level of someone younger than 16. This is based on life experience, exposure, and ability to engage in effective discussions.


Is there a minimum age to take MHFA?

We have a minimum age limit of 18 for MHFA courses and 16 for the MHFA Adults Who Interact with Youth course. Enrollment is dependent on the maturity of the participant and it is up to the instructor to make the final decision.

Taking an MHFA Course

As a participant, do I need to have any skills or training before taking MHFA?

You do not need any skills or training before taking the two-day course. It teaches participants to recognize the signs that a person may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis and how to provide initial help and guide the person to appropriate professional resources. The course is designed to be accessible and helpful for everyone, regardless of their background.


Where do I find an MHFA course?

All courses are posted on our website. To find a course, go to and search by province or postal code to find the course closest to you. A list of all courses offered in your area will appear, sorted by date. You can also search by type of course.

If you don’t see any courses in your area, try contacting local instructors to ask if they will be holding a course soon and whether they maintain a waiting list to notify interested individuals when a course is posted. You can find instructor contact information on our website at

Alternatively, you may contact MHFA Canada to assist in organizing a course in your community or workplace. New courses are always being added, so check back often.


I would like to register for a course, how do I do that?

To register for a course, click on the course name from the listing on our website. More detailed information is provided regarding how to register. Most courses are registered directly through the instructor.


There is no course offered in my city or town. How can I take the course?

If there is an instructor in your area, contact her or him and inquire if they are holding a course in the near future. Ask if they have a waitlist so you will be notified when a course is posted. You also have the option of travelling to another location. All instructors can be found on our website.

MHFA Canada also offers tailored, in-house courses for workplaces and other groups of eight to 25 participants. For more information regarding in-house courses, please check out our Workplace page. 


Do I have to attend the full course to receive my certification?

Yes.  Participants must be present for the full length of the course in order to be certified.  Participants will receive a certificate of completion after taking the course.


How much is the MHFA course? / What do instructors charge? / Why do different instructors charge different amounts? / Why are prices different for different instructors?

Each of our instructors works independently from MHFA Canada after they have been trained and therefore each instructor has autonomy and flexibility to set their fees.

We recommend modest fees, on a sliding scale. However, instructors charge according to their costs, including their fee. Some instructors offer the MHFA course as part of their paid employment, and thus draw a salary while instructing. Others conduct the MHFA course as a private business. They set their prices for training based on location, whether meals are provided, and years of experience. A fee of $100 to $300 per person could be expected.

MHFA Canada also offers tailored, in-house courses for workplaces and other groups of eight to 25 participants. These are subject to fixed rates. For more information regarding in-house courses, please go to our Workplace page.


Are there grants or bursaries to support my attendance at any of the courses?

MHFA Canada is a program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which is a non-profit organization. We are unable to provide any funding through bursaries or grants, nor can we offer subsidies for instructor training.

There may be opportunities for you to apply for a grant from other sources. Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund and/or Canada Post Foundation are good examples. We have had a number of people apply and receive grants through these two granting agencies. There may also be local grants available in your area for which you can apply. These are generally related to community engagement or education, such as community or Rotary Clubs, which might sponsor people to attend.

Something else to consider is that if you become an instructor and offer courses in the community for the general public, any revenue generated can be used to offset the instructor course fee. Instructors typically charge between $100 and $300 per participant and you can have up to 25 participants in one course.


Do participants need to be recertified?

At this time, MHFA does not require recertification for participants, although we do recommend people retake MHFA every two to three years to refresh their skills. The participant’s manual is also a great resource that people certified in Mental Health First Aid can use to keep their knowledge up to date.


Is there an MHFA refresher course?

At this time we do not offer an MHFA refresher course. We recommend that people retake the MHFA course every two to three years to refresh their skills.


Is the course offered online?

We do not offer our courses online. The course is interactive and requires face-to-face learning to ensure effectiveness.

Post-course Questions

When can I expect to receive my certificate after I have taken the course?

You can expect to receive your certificate within six to eight weeks after the training is complete. If you haven’t received it in eight weeks’ time, contact MHFA at  


How do I provide feedback on my course?

All participants are encouraged and asked to provide feedback about the course and the instructor at the end of the training through the course evaluation form. This is sent to MHFA Canada and reviewed by the Training and Delivery Specialist.  If you want to provide further or more detailed feedback, please contact us at