Mental health first aid program can also help to save lives

We’re all aware of the obvious benefits of taking a first aid course.

We’re all aware of the obvious benefits of taking a first aid course.

Even if it’s not required for our work, many of us take some first aid training so we’re able to help if our child, family member or friend starts choking or takes a fall and injures themselves.

Anyone who has been present in one of those situations will tell you how good it feels to be prepared and equipped to help in an emergency.

Are you aware there is a similar program running in Canada to teach mental health first aid?

Mental health first aid has been available in Canada for a few years and came under the direction of the Mental Health Commission of Canada earlier this year.

Its aim is to improve mental health literacy and equip people with the knowledge and skills necessary to help someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Similar to regular first aid, mental health first aid is given to the individual before appropriate professional treatment is found.

The course does not teach people how to be therapists but does help its students to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health problems; provide initial help; and guide the individual to the appropriate professional help.

Considering that one in three of us will struggle with a mental health problem at some point in life, knowing how to help in such a situation is a very valuable skill.

Mental health first aid can help to save lives when someone is a danger to self or others.

It can also help prevent an emerging mental health issue from getting worse.

And of course, a confident, understanding friend reacting with compassion can be very comforting when someone is dealing with confusing or frightening symptoms.

People experiencing acute mental health issues often lack the insight to realize they need help or that help is available—and they may not be thinking clearly about how they could proceed.

In these instances, it makes a very big difference if there is someone who can help them in the right direction.

I think mental health first aid is something that could be beneficial to anyone.

It is of course particularly useful for those who are more likely to encounter mental health problems in their regular environments—teachers, health care workers, emergency workers, frontline social service providers and volunteers.

If you have a family member with a diagnosed mental health condition or if you believe you may be at heightened risk due to genetics, this knowledge would also be helpful.

Courses are available across Canada and there will be a number of sessions running in Kelowna next year.

The earliest one is scheduled for Feb 14 and 15. The basic course takes 12 hours and costs $150 per person.

For information about local courses or to book a group course, contact Charly at 250 861-3644 or email

Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.


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