Mental Health First Aid (Young People)


Mental Health First Aid (Young People) (MHFA: YP) is a 14-hour course.

A whole suite of materials, resources and e-learning modules have been developed to enhance the programme. For example, participants are expected to complete an online module or paper workbook, before undertaking the face-to-face element, offering a flexible, accessible and convenient approach to training delivery.

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

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?

There are many reasons why people who live or work with young people need training in MHFA, including:

  • Being able to detect problems early.
  • Helping to tackle stigma.
  • Helping young people to recognise problems.
  • Providing guidance.
  • Providing immediate assistance.

Mental health problems and illness can first develop during childhood and adolescence. When mental health problems start at an early stage they can have a significant impact on the young person’s life. They can affect education, job prospects, motivation and the development of key relationships (such as finding a partner), and can lead to dependency on alcohol and other substances. This is why it is so important to detect problems early to help ensure young people are properly supported to make positive choices.

Sometimes people are worried that being trained as a mental health first aider will mean that they have to take responsibility for others even when this is too emotionally demanding or time consuming. This is an understandable concern, but it is based on a misconception. People trained in mental health first aid are ordinary people who have been trained in what to do during a mental health crisis.

A key thing to remember is that although the first aider has been trained how to respond, they are never obliged to intervene.

What Will I Learn?

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

The MHFA:YP is a 14-hour evidence-based blended learning course for adults who support young people between the ages of 11-17.

Participants will gain an increased knowledge and awareness of mental health issues, as well as improved confidence in:

  • Being able to detect problems early.
  • Helping to reduce stigma around mental health issues.
  • Helping young people to recognise problems.
  • Providing guidance and immediate assistance to a young person is crisis.

The course does not train you to become a counsellor or mental health professional. It is designed to teach you to better understand mental health and how it affects young people, as well as to learn MHFA skills such as:

  • How to recognise the signs of mental health problems or distress.
  • How to ask about mental distress.
  • How to provide initial support.
  • How to guide a person towards appropriate professional help.

The course also aims to show how MHFAd can be applied in a crisis situation involving a range of common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, suicide and substance misuse.

Course Format

The MHFA: YP course is a 14-hour blended learning training course.

The term ‘blended’ means that the course is a mixture of self-study, which is undertaken online using NHS Health Scotland’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) together with a one-day face to face component.

There are three parts to the course:

  • Part 1:
    • Self-study module.
    • 3 hours.
    • Understanding the context for mental health first aid for young people.
    • Once you have registered on a course, your MHFA:YP instructor will send you details to allow you to access the VLE to complete Part 1.
    • Throughout Part 1 of the course, to test your understanding, you will be asked to reflect on statements, answer multiple choice questions and consider case studies.
    • At the end of the Part 1 you will have to submit a set of assessment questions to your MHFA:YP trainer, after which you will be able to print a certificate to show that you have completed Part 1 successfully.
    • You must complete this Part 1 module before attending the next phase of the training.
  • Part 2:
    • Face to face training.
    • 7 hours.
    • Developing the skills to apply mental health first aid with young people.
    • You will need to bring the certificate gained at the end of Part 1 to Part 2, the face to face training sessions. If you have not completed Part 1 of the course you will not be able to complete Part 2.
  • Part 3:
    • Self-study module.
    • 4 hours.
    • Deepening understanding of mental health problems and young people.
    • Following Part 2, the blended learning will continue with Part 3.
    • This module will seek to deepen your understanding of mental health problems for young people and increase your confidence and competence in becoming a mental health first aider.

Course Content

Topics covered during the course include:

  • Guidance on being a Mental Health First Aider.
  • Mental health problems that affect young people.
  • The recovery message.
  • The impact of alcohol and drugs on a young person’s mental health.
  • Introduction to suicide intervention.
  • Listening skills.
  • Understanding cyber-bullying.
  • Understanding depression.
  • How to offer first aid to someone experiencing depression.
  • Understanding anxiety.
  • Understanding psychosis.
  • How to offer first aid to someone experiencing a psychotic episode.
  • Understanding eating disorders.

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 young person in distress.

Mental Health First Aid 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.


After completing all three parts you will receive a certificate confirming your ‘Scotland’s Mental Health First Aider for Young People’ status.

During the course you will also receive three booklets which you take away with you at the end so that you can remind yourself of what you have learned.

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