Mental Health First Aid

by Rob Jaska Pharmacist/Manager – Medical Centre Pharmacy

Certified in Mental Health First Aid


What is Mental Health First Aid?

What we traditionally know as first aid is the help given to an injured person before professional medical treatment can be obtained. In a similar fashion, mental health first aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. This first aid is given until appropriate treatment is received or the crisis is resolved.

The aims of MHFA are to:

      1. Preserve life where a person may be a danger to themselves or others
      2. Provide help to prevent the mental health problem from becoming more serious.
      3. Promote the recovery of good health
      4. Provide comfort to a person experiencing a mental health problem

People trained in mental health first aid are taught to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems, provide initial assistance and to guide a person towards appropriate professional help

Why is Mental Health First Aid important?

Mental health problems are very common. Most of us know someone who has struggled with their mental health at some point. Statistics illustrate that 1 person in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue in the course of a year and 1 person in 3 will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.

Other important reasons include: Professional help is not always immediately available, not everyone with a mental health problem seeks treatment, there is still a stigma associated with mental health problems that keep people from reaching out and many people are not well informed.

The 5 basic actions of Mental Health first Aid

No matter the type of problem or potential underlying disorder, the 5 basic actions of mental health first aid are essentially the same

      1. Assess the risk of suicide and harm
      2. Listen non-judgmentally
      3. Give reassurance and information
      4. Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help
      5. Encourage other supports

For Crisis Support Services contact:

Westman Crisis Services 204-725-4411 or 1-888-379-7699

Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line 1-877-435-7170

Manitoba Farm, Rural and Northern Support Services 1-866-367-3276

Child and Adolescent Treatment Centre: 204-578-2700 or 1-866-403-5459

Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

Manitoba Addictions Helpline 1-855-662-6605

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline 1-855-242-3310


Rob Jaska is a pharmacist and manager at Medical Centre Pharmacy and has been trained to provide Mental Health First Aid. The information above has been reproduced and adapted from the Mental Health First Aid course material provided by the Mental Health Commission of Canada