Mental Health First Aid (Higher Education)


The Higher Education Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a two-day course.

It can be presented in a range of formats from two full days to six two-hour sessions.

Course material includes responding to a mental health crisis and information about the most common mental health problems.

Participants develop skills in asking appropriate questions, listening without judgement and giving guidance about where help can be found.

This course is only offered by MHFA England.

Please note that this course is not bespoke to a university environment. They have been designed to work across sectors.

What are the Aims of MHFA?

The aims of the MHFA course are:

  • To preserve life.
  • To provide help to prevent the mental health problem or crisis developing into a more serious state.
  • To promote the recovery of good mental health.
  • To provide comfort to a person experiencing distress.
  • To promote understanding of mental health issues.

The course will give you the knowledge to apply these aims in a real life situation.

Why Take The Course?

This course is designed for everyone.

There are five good reasons to attend MHFA:

  1. Most people do not know what to do in a mental health crisis. Taking the course will enable you be one of the few who knows what to do and is confident about putting that knowledge into action.
  2. You will learn how to recognise when a person might need help and the best way to approach them.
  3. You could save a life by learning basic suicide intervention skills.
  4. You will learn what protects your own and other people’s mental health.
  5. You will learn new skills that are useful in every part of your life.

Mental Health problems are not as frightening as most people think.

When a person has a mental health problem what they need most is someone who can:

  • Listen calmly to their feelings and fears;
  • Give some simple information; and
  • Tell them where to get appropriate help.

This course is for everyone, and participants use the skills they learn in all settings.

What Will I Learn?

You will learn a variety of things on the course, including:

  • How to apply the 5 steps of MHFA.
  • How to respond if you believe someone is at risk of suicide.
  • How to give immediate help until professional help is available.
  • What to say and do in a crisis.
  • The importance of good listening skills.
  • Practice listening and responding.
  • Understanding recovery from mental health problems.
  • Understanding the connection between mental health problems and alcohol and drugs.
  • Understanding the connection between mental health problems and discrimination.
  • Some basic information about common mental health problems.
  • Self help information.

Course Format

The course takes 12 hours and is often run on two separate days, although it can be over 4 half days or 6 two-hour sessions.

Sometimes it will be in shorter sessions over two, four or six weeks.

It is an interesting course that includes different activities, films, discussions and even some fun and laughter.

Course Content

Topics covered during the course include:

  • Guidance on being a Mental Health First Aider.
  • Attitudes to mental health issues.
  • Equalities.
  • The recovery message.
  • The impact of alcohol and drugs on mental health.
  • Introduction to suicide intervention.
  • Listening skills.
  • Understanding depression.
  • How to offer first aid to someone experiencing depression.
  • Understanding anxiety.
  • How to offer first aid to someone experiencing anxiety.
  • Understanding psychosis.
  • How to offer first aid to someone experiencing a psychotic episode.

What Does the Course Not Do?

The course does not train people to be mental health workers.

It offers basic general information about mental health problems.

The knowledge presented and understanding developed in the course helps to remove stigma and fear and to give confidence in approaching a person in distress.

MHFA is an initial response to distress and all participants on the course understand that this help is given only until other suitable or professional help can be found.


You will get a certificate of attendance and a colourful and interesting manual to take away with you at the end so that you can remind yourself of what you have learned.

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