Mental Health First Aid (Instructor)


Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor training is a 00-hour course.

NHS Health Scotland provides an ongoing programme of updating skills and knowledge for instructors and monitors training through a process of continuous evaluation. Training within England is conducted via MHFA England.

This page refers to the Scottish MHFA Instructor course, although the principles are the same for the other nations MHFA courses.

How to Become an Instructor

The following are essential for being considered for the MHFA instructor training programme or for being approved to deliver courses:

  • Returning a completed application pack before the closing date.
  • Attended a 12-hour course within 12-months prior to coming on the instructor training.
  • Personal and/or professional experience in the field of mental health.
  • Experience of delivering training/teaching effectively.
  • Networking experience.
  • Awareness of the range of Scottish mental health services.
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Knowledge of mental health problems.
  • Positive attitude towards people with mental health problems.
  • Enthusiasm and commitment towards reducing stigma associated with mental illness.
  • Delivering training to groups who focus on reducing health inequalities.

The charge for the SMHFA manual, which is issued to all people who attend a SMHFA course also continues to be free of charge. Certificates of attendance are also provided at no charge. Instructors or their sponsoring organisations will be required to order these materials from NHS Health Scotland.

What Kind of People Become Instructors?

MHFA instructors come from a range of backgrounds including:

  • Prison officers;
  • Social workers;
  • Nurses;
  • Doctors;
  • Psychiatrists;
  • Health promotion workers;
  • Service users;
  • Teachers and lecturers;
  • Training officers;
  • Freelance trainers;
  • Housing officers;
  • Staff from voluntary organisations;
  • Care home staff;
  • Counsellors;
  • Therapists; and
  • Voluntary workers.

There is no barrier to anyone training to be an instructor as long as they meet the application criteria.

Every instructor is responsible for organising their own courses, as NHS Health Scotland does help instructors to find opportunities for training work.

Course Format

All SMHFA instructors must attend five days of initial training. The training is designed to develop skills and knowledge and to build confidence about the use of the materials.

The course is made up of the following elements:

  • Part One:
    • In your own time attend a 12-hour SMHFA course.
  • Part Two:
    • Attend a 3-day development centre.
    • These 3-days are run consecutively.
  • Part Three:
    • Attend a 2-day skills practice centre.
    • There is at least a one week gap before the two skills practice days.
    • The two days are also run consecutively.

The course is structured this way because, in general, five consecutive days is too big a commitment for most people to take out of work time. Therefore, parts two and three are programmed together to make it easier for people who travel from remoter parts of Scotland. Also, you will need time to familiarise yourself with the content and work with the materials between the different parts of the course.

Course Content

All participants must attend a 12 -hour SMHFA course, either Adult or Young People, before attending instructor training.

Instructor Training lasts for 5 days and is made up of the following elements:

  • Development Centre (3 days):
    • Taking a closer look at the course content and getting to know it in detail.
    • Working with your peers to consider some of the challenges of working with groups.
    • Training in learning styles and applying the theory to real-life training situations.
    • Equalities training.
    • Help with IT for those who need it.
    • Help with presentation skills.
    • Workshops with professionals in the field of mental health on topics such as psychosis, talking therapies and recovery.

Trainees will work very hard in these three days but there are lots of rewards. Trainees gain confidence, learn new skills and meet new people. At the end of the first day trainees will be given their instructor’s kit. This contains everything that trainees need to become an instructor.

  • Skills Practice Days (2 days):
    • The skills practise days are the final two days of the course – it is trainees’ turn to lead a group.
    • In advance of the skills practice days trainees will each be allocated a short section of the course.
    • During the two days trainees will train their peer group for about 35 minutes on this section.
    • In the time allowed trainees must demonstrate that they can:
      • Get the group working together on an activity; and
      • Give information and/or teach new skills.

Trainee’s mentor will observe them and give feedback at the end to help trainees develop their training skills. All trainee instructors will also give feedback to each of their peers.

After the Course

After the five days of training, instructors complete their approval process by preparing a learning folder and training their first groups under supervision from their mentor.

  • The Learning Folder:
    • Part of your development as a trainer involves writing down your thoughts and reflections on the seven days training. This done for two reasons:
      • It is good practice to reflect on your own learning process; and
      • Your mentor can be sure that you are getting to grips with the things you are learning.
    • Trainee are given a learning folder in which to record their reflections and store the different feedback forms you will collect.
    • Trainees are asked to send the folder to their mentor quite soon after the course finishes.
    • Trainees are encouraged to fill in each section as that part of the training occurs.
  • Training:
    • The final part of trainees’ journey towards approval as an SMHFA trainer is getting out there and training groups.
    • Trainees are required to train two different groups within the first six months to a year after completing the course.
    • After finishing the training trainees will be asked to send their evaluation sheets to their mentor.


After two successful courses trainee instructors will receive their certificate to say that they are an approved instructor.

Which Courses Can I Instruct?

Instructors can only instruct courses for which they have completed the appropriate MHFA course and MHFA instructor training.

For example, an instructor cannot instruct on the MHFA (Young People) if they have only completed the MHFA (Adult) course and MHFA (Adult) instructor training.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.