“Life changing.” “Incredibly eye-opening.” “Absolutely essential.” These are just some of the comments I have heard from recent participants of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course at CLAC’s member centres.
MHFA is a relatively new training course. It is designed to equip participants with the ability to recognize mental health problems in others, confidently respond in the most effective and helpful manner, and guide individuals to the help and support they need to address the problem at the earliest possible stage.
MHFA is, in a way, a response to the overwhelming success of standard first aid. Consider this. St. John Ambulance First Aid—the most common first-aid course taught around the world, including by CLAC Training at member centres across the country—has been taught in Canada since 1883. Millions of Canadians have received first-aid training since then, and countless lives have been saved or made better as a result.
The ambition of those who offer MHFA is to replicate the success of standard first aid, but for mental health.
One in three Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, making mental health one of the most pressing public health issues in Canada. Mental illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy $51 billion per year. These numbers are a call to action.
I’ve heard many anecdotal stories from CLAC representatives who say they spend more and more of their time assisting members and employers dealing with issues related to mental health, either personally or within their work community. Chances are good that you know someone close to you who has or has lived through a mental illness. Perhaps you are currently suffering from a mental health challenge.
MHFA was introduced to Canada in 2007, and since then it has been delivered to over 400,000 Canadians. This is a great start, but it means the vast majority of Canadians have not heard about MHFA yet.
CLAC wants to be part of the journey of bringing MHFA to every work community in Canada. We believe so strongly in the need for and benefit of MHFA that we have dedicated $100,000 to delivering the course to members and staff this year alone. We are hosting MHFA courses in our member centres across the country. We are inviting stewards, members, CLAC staff, and even employer representatives to participate in the training.
It is our hope that through the delivery of MHFA, we will help create work communities for our members where those who suffer from mental illness feel understood and supported. When we understand mental illness and offer a helping hand to those who need it, we will make a real difference in helping them return to health. This is what belonging to a caring community is all about.
If you want to find out more about MHFA, please check out mhfa.ca. To inquire about how you might be able to bring MHFA to your work community, please contact your local CLAC member centre for more information.