Overview of Mental Health First Aid Certification
Mental health first aid is a concept similar to regular first aid or CPR in that it exists to provide services for those in emergency situations. When an individual is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, a mental health first aid expert intervenes to help the individual get through the crisis safely. The expert also helps beyond the crisis in order to assist the individual with recovery. Those who offer mental health first aid deal with many situations, such as trauma, psychosis, depression, panic attacks, and substance abuse, among others.
Earning mental health first aid certification involves taking an in-person 8-hour class that is offered through the Mental Health First Aid USA organization. Mental Health First Aid USA partners with other organizations, such as Mental Health America and the National Council for Behavioral Health, to provide its course across the country. Those obtaining certification for the first time generally must do it in person by completing a class, but recertification can be done entirely online. Anyone can take the mental health first aid course and become certified; there are no prerequisite education or professional requirements. Professionals in the mental health, teaching, and social work fields may benefit from this course.
Mental Health First Aid Course and Certification Information
There are two main courses offered by Mental Health First Aid USA: adult and youth. The adult course is designed for anyone 18 years and older seeking training in identifying and intervening in mental health situations in multiple populations. The youth course is designed for people who regularly come into contact with children and young adults, such as parents, teachers, caregivers, and school staff, to identify and intervene in mental health situations in children and young adults. However, both courses teach the same topics.
The mental health first aid course uses an action plan to teach participants how to recognize and deal with a variety of mental illnesses and situations, such as depression, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, self-harm, and withdrawal from substances, among others. The plan is divided into 5 steps.
1. Risk Assessment
Participants learn the warning signs of stressors related to suicidal thoughts and behaviors and nonsuicidal self-harm.
2. Nonjudgmental Listening
Participants learn how to listen to individuals in crisis with an open mind to help them feel understood and valued. This includes verbal and nonverbal skills such as eye contact and open body posture.
3. Reassurance and Information
Participants learn how to reassure individuals in crisis to help them feel validated in their thoughts and feelings. They can also learn how to provide helpful information and resources so individuals can access practical help and support.
4. Professional Help Encouragement
Participants learn when and how to refer an individual to professional help. This includes learning about the types of professionals and professional help that can benefit the individual, such as physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, talk therapy, and medication.
5. Self-Help Encouragement
Participants learn how to encourage individuals with mental illness to take steps toward recovery that they can do themselves, such as relaxation and meditation, exercise, and peer support groups. Participants can also learn where some of these resources, such as support groups, can be found so they can offer them to individuals.
Certification is obtained by successfully completing the course given by Mental Health First Aid USA. Those who have not taken a mental health first aid course in 3 years will need to recertify. This can be done entirely online. Participants simply purchase the course, successfully complete it (which takes less than 2 hours), and automatically receive their certificate.
Mental Health First Aid Certification Career Benefits
While anyone can earn mental health first aid certification, it can be especially useful in careers where close, extended contact with people is common, such as home health aides, psychiatric, and clinical social workers.
Home Health Aides
Home health aides work with the elderly and disabled populations to assist them with their daily lives. Their specific duties can depend on who they're caring for, but they can be in charge of things such as housekeeping, scheduling doctors' appointments, and helping the client stay active in the community. Home health aides can benefit from mental health first aid certification because they may be around clients with mental illness. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of 2019, the median annual pay for home health aides was $24,200. The BLS also reports the profession is expected to grow by 37% from 2018 to 2028.
Psychiatric aides work in mental healthcare facilities to assist patients with daily tasks, keeping facilities clean, and transporting patients within the facility, among other things. Psychiatric aides work directly with people who have mental illnesses, so a mental health first aid certification can be beneficial, especially if a patient becomes so distressed that they have a violent outburst. The BLS states that as of 2019, the median annual pay for psychiatric aides was $31,110. The profession is expected to grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028.
Clinical Social Workers
Clinical social workers regularly come in contact with people who have a mental illness or have been through trauma or distress. They can help clients deal with difficult situations and adjust to change, as well as refer them to other professional services. Mental health first aid certification can benefit clinical social workers so they are prepared to help clients in mental health-related emergency situations. According to PayScale, as of 2020, the average salary for licensed clinical social workers is $57,753. The BLS states that the social work profession as a whole is expected to grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028.
Mental health first aid certification can be obtained by any individual, but it can be most helpful for professionals such as clinical social workers, home health aides, and psychiatric aides. While initial certification cannot be obtained online, recertification can be done completely online.