A blog about the mental health first aider. 

What is the Role of the Mental Health First Aider? 

So, you’ve heard of first responders and general first aid certifications. What about mental health first aid though? In our society, mental health is still a bit of a taboo to talk about, but mental health first aiders are changing that every single day! They are making it easier to talk about mental health and helping individual get the help they need. 
Let’s talk a little bit about what a mental health first aider is, what they do, where they work, and more! 
What is mental health first aider? 
Mental health first aiders are people who take and pass a course that provides you with the ability to properly identify and respond to mental illness signs. Mental health first aiders are anybody who wants to be able to protect their communities and provide care when needed. 
They’re veterans and teachers. They’re first responders and parents. They’re college students and neighbors. Anybody can be a mental health first aider so long as they have the drive and passion to do so! 
What does a mental health first aider do? 
Mental health first aiders are a point of contact when discussing mental health concerns. They can help identify signs of mental illness in someone. They can also be an unbiased person for someone experiencing mental health concerns to talk to about their problems. 
It’s important to note that mental health first aiders do not diagnose mental illness. They also are not acting therapists. Their role is to point out potential signs of mental illness and be a point of reference who can help guide an individual to get the care that they need. 
Additionally, mental health first aiders help destigmatize mental health conversations. They promote talking about mental health concerns in an open and welcoming manner. This is to help provide support to people who may be struggling as well as to show people that it’s okay to talk about. 
What do you need to be a mental health first aider? 
In order to be a mental health first aider, you need to take and pass the mental health first aid certification course. There are three levels explained below and each one allows you to serve a specific purpose. You should never conduct any level of care that is beyond your level of certification as this can be detrimental to an individual’s mental health. 
What is the role of a mental health first aider? 
The role of a mental health first aider varies based on the level that they have reached in their training. 
Level One: The level one mental health first aid certification is meant to help open up the conversation about mental health. Those with a level one certification are not full mental health first aiders. They are not often the point of contact, but rather they can help with destigmatizing the conversation regarding mental health. 
Level Two: The level two mental health first aider certification is when you would be considered a mental health first aider. You could be hired to partake in mental health services within a company or school. In this role, an individual would become that point of contact for anyone struggling with mental health concerns. 
They would have open conversations, ensuring that the person talking feels heard. Following that, the first aiders would recommend what the next steps should be. They may also look out for signs of mental health concerns and forward such concerns to whomever is in charge or promote open discussion with that individual if appropriate. 
Level Three: Level three first aiders are kind of like the top dog in the chain. Their job includes all of the responsibility of a level two first aider, but with the added responsibility of structural change within a company. They are responsible for helping companies implement mental health policies. Additionally, they are in charge of any mental health first aiders with lower certification levels who work within the same organization. 
Where does a mental health first aider work? 
Mental health first aiders work in a wide variety of settings. That being said, the most common places for a mental health aider to work include: 
• Businesses 
• Schools 
• Daycare Centers 
• Youth Centers 
• Hospitals/Doctor’s Offices 
In these settings, mental health first aiders are often that point of contact for people to reach out to when they feel their mental health is unstable in some manner. The mental health first aider will then direct that individual to where they can seek services! 
However, you do not need to have a paid job as a mental health aider in order to be one. Being a mental health first aider is kind of like having a skill in your back pocket in case of emergencies. It’s similar to being certified in any other first aid branch such as CPR. 
Why is having a mental health first aid administer on staff important? 
Mental health first aiders provide support to individuals in need. They keep a lookout for signs that someone may need help and (level 3 aiders) enact structural change. Companies want to ensure that their employees are healthy, both physically and mentally. An all-around healthy employee is a productive one so it’s important to have policies in place if someone is experiencing mental health concerns. 
It's also important to have a mental health first aider on staff who can ensure that policies are being met and are being taken seriously. If there’s nobody to supervise, it’s likely the policies will not be followed. This can lead to poor mental health of staff members. 
What kinds of conversations will you have as a mental health first aider? 
You may have a wide variety of conversations with people as a mental health first aider. Sometimes you may be talking to someone about burnout and other times you’ll be discussing substance abuse concerns. Additionally, you might discuss the following circumstances: 
• Death and loss of a loved one 
• Relationship problems 
• Workplace confrontation 
• Sibling confrontation or problems with parents 
• Feelings of inadequacy 
• Feelings of sadness or overwhelm 
Pending the individual, there is no shortage of conversations you will encounter. However, your job is to listen and direct them to someone who can help treat their concerns. 
Final Thoughts 
Mental health first aiders are vital members of society. They are trained to identify mental health concerns in a variety of settings and guide individuals to a path where they can seek treatment. Anybody can be a mental health first aider, you just need a passion and a drive! 
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