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All About: Mental Health First Aid!

2019-05-22T11:10:32-04:00May 22nd, 2019|

Imagine you are in your local grocery store, and you see a fellow shopper who appears to have trouble breathing. She cannot seem to catch her breath, looks troubled and scared. What do you do? Call 9-1-1? Keep Shopping? Alert another shopper? Ask her if she needs help? This is a disturbing situation, and one that can happen almost anywhere. There is help available.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a wonderful resource that can help provide answers.

What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an 8-hour course that gives people 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, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.

What do people learn in a Mental Health First Aid course?
Just as CPR training helps a person with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a person assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis such as contemplating suicide. In both situations, the goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives. Mental Health First Aiders learn a simple 5-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports.

Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.

MHFA Training

MHFA Training Session in Progress

What types of crisis interventions are covered?
Trainees are taught how to apply the 5-step action plan in a variety of situations such as helping someone through a panic attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal, or assisting an individual having a crisis. An important component of the MHFA course is the opportunity to practice the intervention strategy. This experience can make it easier to apply the knowledge in a real-life situation.

The program is highly effective. Our trainees reported that they have used the skills acquired during the course to help others. Over 20 referrals for mental health services have been made since the inception of the program, less than 6 months ago. Through this course and its trainees, over 20 people have gotten the mental help they needed.

We are on our way to train about 700 by the end of September, and hope to train a few thousand people in the next few years.

MHFA trainees

These Jersey City residents just completed their Mental Health First Aid training!

How can I participate?
If you have a group that might benefit from the training, please contact the HealthierJC MHFA program (contact info below). If you are interested as an individual, register for scheduled trainings at

When are the trainings?
Trainings take a full 8-hour day. Most trainings will be offered on weekdays. There will be some weekend trainings available. The following 2019 dates are scheduled, with limited availability:

June 21, July 19, August 16, September 20
All sessions will be held from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and all of the scheduled dates listed here fall on a Friday

Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center
140 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive
(parking lot across the street, entrance on Dwight St.)

Want more information? CONTACT US!
Department of Health & Human Services
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. City Hall Annex
One Jackson Square
Jersey City, NJ 07305
(201) 547-6800 – ask for Mental Health First Aid
Project Director: Paul Bellan-Boyer,