Mental Health First Aid

mental health first aid

So often when an individual is in crisis, law enforcement officers or first responders are the first people on the scene.  How do they know to identify someone experiencing a mental health crisis? Mental Health America of the MidSouth has certified instructors to train your team, and these resources are free.

Mental Health First Aid

People who enroll in local Mental Health First Aid courses learn a 5-step action plan to help loved ones, colleagues, neighbors, and others cope with mental health or substance use problems. Similar to traditional First Aid and CPR, Mental Health First Aid is help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis until professional treatment is obtained or the crisis resolves. Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based public education and prevention tool – it improves the public’s knowledge of mental health and substance use problems and connects people with care for their mental health or substance use problems. 

  • As of 2018, there are more than 1 million people trained in Mental Health First Aid in the United States by a network of more than 12,000 Instructors.
  • Mental Health First Aid was originally created in Australia in 2001 under the auspices of the University of Melbourne and is now international
  • The National Council for Behavioral Health – a national trade group with more than 2,900 member organizations serving millions of Americans nationwide – helped bring Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008 with the goal of making it as common as traditional first aid and CPR. 
  • Mental Health First Aid has strong evidence backing it. Three quantitative and one qualitative studies have shown that the program
    • 1) improves people’s mental health,
    • 2) increases understanding of mental health issues and treatments,
    • 3) connects more people with care, and
    • 4) reduces stigma.
  • Trainees go through an 8-hour training program that teaches them a 5-step action plan to
    • 1) assess a situation,  
    • 2) select and implement appropriate interventions, and
    • 3) secure appropriate care for an individual experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.
  • Trainees also learn risk factors and warning signs of mental illness and addiction and about available treatments. Upon completion, participants better understanding the impact mental illnesses and addictions have on a person, their family and communities.
  • Trainees are from all walks of life and include school personnel, law enforcement, faith-based communities, hospital and nursing home staff, families and young people.

MHA of the MidSouth has staff trained as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructors in both Adult MHFA (including special modules for Public Safety/Law Enforcement, Fire/EMS, Older Persons, Higher Education and Veterans/Military Personnel and Military Families) and Youth MHFA (for adults who work with youth to learn the skills they need to reach out and provide initial support to adolescents, ages 12-18, who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care). We currently have grant funding to present the Public Safety, Fire/EMS, and Veteran/Military/Military Families modules at no cost to those audiences. Contact Carol Ackley at for more information.

Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)

The Wellness Recovery Action Plan® or WRAP® is a self-designed prevention and wellness process that anyone can use to get well, stay well and make their life the way they want it to be. It was developed in 1997 by a group of people who were searching for ways to overcome their own mental health issues and move on to fulfilling their life dreams and goals.  It is now used extensively by people in all kinds of circumstances, and by health care and mental health systems all over the world to address all kinds of physical, mental health and life issues. WRAP has been studied extensively in rigorous research projects and is listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

Wrap Logo 7.24.2019

MHA of the MidSouth has staff who are trained to facilitate individual or group trainings in WRAP.  Participants will learn how to

  • Discover their own simple, safe wellness tools
  • Develop a list of things to do every day to stay as well as possible
  • Identify upsetting events, early warning signs and signs that things have gotten much worse and, using wellness tools, develop action plans for responding at these times 
  • Create a crisis plan
  • Create a post-crisis plan

Contact Carol Ackley at for more information.

Certified Peer Recovery Specialist

Research over the past decades is clear—peer support works. Mental Health America’s new National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification represents the highest standard of excellence in the country.

There are currently more than 25,000 certified peer specialists in the country working in many aspects of public behavioral health, but to date there has been very little advancement for peer support in the private sector. Providers and funders in this space indicate the need for a uniform high standard for peer workers. Even providers in the public sector including Medicaid managed care organizations are seeking the very best in peer support. Forty-two states have developed a statewide certification process, but their standards vary dramatically.

The MHA National Certified Peer Specialist credential was developed to raise standards and provide uniform quality across the country. The NCPS certification is an advanced-level peer specialist credential, for a person with a minimum of 3,000 hours of experience and advanced training in topics related to peer support, whole health, health care systems, trauma-informed care, and adult learning. In states with certification, it is anticipated that applicants for the NCPS will already be certified in order to accumulate the required hours of experience. In those states without certification applicants must have taken an approved training and provided the minimum of 3,000 hours of documented service.

The MHA credential, developed in partnership with the Florida Certification Board (FCB), is a legally defensible certification, developed under the strictest procedures according to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies Standards for Accreditation of Certification. The FCB carefully documents each stage of the certification program development process to demonstrate compliance with industry-accepted standards and practices. Employers can be assured that when they hire an employee with the NCPS credential that they have hired a skilled, competent and certified person proving due diligence in the hiring process.

Peers have a transformative effect on care. Whether in the emergency department, inpatient setting, primary care, or alongside mental health professionals, peers with the MHA NCPS certification have the highest levels of skills, experience, and expertise that can make all the difference.

MHA of the MidSouth offers the MHA NCPS Master Classes designed to prepare you for the MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) certification exam.  The classes cover the following topics:

  • Mentoring, Shared Learning, Relationship Building, and Story Telling
  • Peer Support and the Impact of Trauma
  • Foundations of Health Care Systems
  • Enhanced Goal Setting
  • Activation and Self-Management 
  • Whole Health Peer Support

Contact Carol Ackley at to find out more information.  *Master Classes do not replace training requirements for the MHA NCPS certification.