Evidence and Outcomes
As a public education program, Mental Health First Aid has the potential to reduce stigma, improve mental health literacy, and empower individuals.
Since its inception at the University of Melbourne in 2001, the program has undergone several studies to indicate MHFA’s effectiveness in Australia. Major findings of MHFA studies found that participants gained a better recognition of mental disorders, a better understanding of treatments, more confidence in providing help to others, improved mental health for themselves, lessened stigmatizing attitudes and decreased social distance from people with mental disorders. Additional studies addressed MHFA’s impact on the community including increased help provided to others, increased guidance to professional help, and improved concordance with health professionals about treatment. Furthermore, evaluation studies have addressed MHFA’s impact on the public, workplace, rural areas, and participant’s experiences. For instance, a controlled trial completed among Australian rural populations found that those individuals that finished the coursed immediately demonstrated a better recognition of disorders from individual case descriptions, fewer negative attitudes towards people with mental disorders, increased concordance with health professionals about treatments, and greater confidence in providing help to others and increased likelihood to provide help to others.
The research studies demonstrating the success of the program in Australia led us to bring the program to the United States in 2008. Mental Health First Aid USA is a collaboration between the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
Here in the US, as the program is introduced nationwide, there are also efforts underway to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Current evaluation projects include:
- The University of Maryland, via a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is conducting a thorough review of MHFA USA for its fidelity to the original, tested Australian model. This study is reviewing the materials, structure, and delivery of the course.
- The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education secured a challenge grant from the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) in order to conduct a multi-year study to identify if MHFA can decrease barriers preventing college students from obtaining needed mental health services.
In addition to the above, evaluations are collected in each Mental Health First Aid course and reported back to the national program in an effort to track the response to the program nationwide. MHFA Instructors may also conduct a pre & post-test with their participants to measure knowledge & skills gained within their area.
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