Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid – Adults who interact with youth

Session 1 – Introduction

Help provide initial support to youth ages 12-24

What is health? Health is “a state of physical, mental and social well-being” (world health organization)

Mental health is “the capacity to each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equality, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity”


Assess risk of suicide and/or harm

Listen non-judgmentally

Give reassurance and information

Encourage the young person to get appropriate professional help

Encourage other supports

Stigma refers to negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behavior (discrimination) towards people with mental health problems

** Show photos before each mental health disorder and get students to say what they think it is about or how the artist was feeling. Then share artist statement**

Session 2 – Substance-related disorders

People use many types of substances

Use does not equal disorder

Short or long term substance use can cause problems socially, relationships, work and school

Two types: substance use disorder and substance-induced disorder

Severity occurs in a broad range of severity

Need to know how to recognize signs and symptoms (do not need to diagnose)

Signs and symptoms: stealing money, withdrawing from activities, having problems with the law, drop in grades, missing school, sleeping in class, experiencing memory and concentration problems, mood swings, unhappy or depressed, suspicious or anxious, bloodshot eyes, lasting cough or nasal stuffiness, tiredness, gaining weight, change in appetite.

Types of substances: alcohol, sedatives, hypnotics and anxiolytics, inhalants, opiates, stimulants, caffeine, Tabaco, hallucinogens, cannabis, club drugs

Overdose steps: unconscious- ensure personal safety, place person in recovery position, call emergency services, determine type of substance, keep person warm. Conscious: call emergency, don’t give food or water, reassure that help is coming, determine type of substance, and keep person warm.

Recovery position: make sure airway is clear, lay arm over body, place opposite foot up, move to side that leg is up and roll over, place other arm over the body.

Alcohol poisoning: don’t let them sleep it off, blood alcohol level can rise or danger of choking on owns vomit. Signs of alcohol poisoning: slow breathing, smell of alcohol, mental confusion, vomiting, seizures, and hypothermia.

Empathy: 4 steps: take on perspective, staying out of judgment, recognizing emotion in people, communicating that emotion.

Session 3 – Mood Related Disorders

What are mood related disorders? Characterized by disturbance in the way a person feel and the way a person experiences emotions.

Two forms of mood related disorders: depressive disorder and bipolar disorder

Signs of depression: looks sad, dejected, anxious, speaking slowly, lack of attention, slowed thinking, decreased energy, tiredness and fatigue, emotionally blunted or numb.

Tips: use visualization (balloon of worries floating away, dumpster bin), positive self talk

Bipolar Disorder: Mood swings. Depression symptoms and mania symptoms,

Symptoms of Bipolar disorder (Mania): increased energy and over activity, elevated or elated mood, needing less sleep, irritability, rapid thinking and speech, lack of inhibitions, grandiose delusions, lack of insight


Suicide and suicidal thoughts should always be considered as a possibility when a person has a mental health problem or is in a crisis.

Crisis first aid for suicidal behavior: 1. Engage the person in a serious conversation 2. Ask about suicide 3. Explore risk 4.engage the person in a plan for safety

Warning signs: expressing intent to die or having plan to do so, expressing suicidal thoughts, telling final wishes to someone close, giving away prized possession, loss of interest, loss of energy, loss of appetite, changes in sleep pattern, expressions of hopelessness, helplessness, or desperation

Ten thinking distortions: black and white thinking, setting unrealistic expectations, selective thinking, converting positives into negatives, over generalizing, exaggerating unpleasantness, catastrophizing, personalizing, mistaking feelings for facts, jumping to negative conclusions.

Session 4 – Deliberate self-injury

What is deliberate self-injury: Act of purposefully causing harm to one. Typically, there is no intent of suicide

Forms of self-injury: cutting, self hitting, burning, swallowing toxic substances, ripping or pulling hair, self-biting, sticking needles or pins into skin, pinching

Reasons for self-injury: easing tension and anxiety, escaping feelings of depression and emptiness, escaping feelings of numbness, relieving anger and aggression, relieving intense emotional pain, regaining control over ones body, maintaining a sense of security or feeling, obtaining a feeling of euphoria, expressing or coping with feelings of alienation.

Protective factors: social support, religious belief and optimistic outlook

It is important to know that they are not just trying to gain attention from others.

Session 5 – Anxiety and Trauma-Related Disorders

Anxiety is a state of worry, apprehension or uneasiness and is a natural response that motivates us to solve everyday problems

Anxiety disorders are more sever, lasts longer and interferes with school, work or relationships than “normal” anxiety

Many people do not fit neatly into 1 category but can fit into a few with different symptoms

Types of anxiety: generalized anxiety disorder, panic attack, separation anxiety, specific phobia disorder, social anxiety disorder


Psychological: fear, trepidation, sense of impending doom or imminent danger, excessive appropriate worry, fear of dying or going mad, decreased attention and concentration, environment feels unreal and unfamiliar, feeling detached from oneself, speeding or slowing of thoughts, easily distracted, irritability, insomnia, vivid dreams

Physical: cardiovascular (heart palpitations, chest pain, rapid heart rate), respiratory (hyperventilation, shortness of breath) neurological (dizziness, headaches, vertigo, tingling or numbness of the skin) gastrointestinal (choking, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) musculoskeletal (muscle ache and tension, restlessness)

Trauma-related disorder – Distress following exposure to traumatic, catastrophic or stressful event. (Acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder)

Symptoms: re-experiencing the trauma, feeling of uneasiness, avoidance behavior, emotional numbing, reduced interest, persistent increased arousal

MHFA panic attacks: call for help, move to a quiet location, encourage slow breathing, listen without judging, explain that it could be a panic attack and not life threatening, stay with the person until help arrives or the attack is over (ground yourself, 5 thing you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste, feel your body touching the ground and work way up body)

MHFA acute stress reaction: let the person tell their story, be empathetic, validate normal responses, encourage personal supports, suggest they avoid drugs and alcohol, encourage professional help.

Session 6 – Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve serious disturbances in eating habits or weight-control behaviors

Two main eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia

Anorexia: obsessed with controlling their eating behaviors

Main characteristics of anorexia: refusal to maintain body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, over-evaluation of body shape and weight, loss of menstrual periods

Bulimia: cycles of bingeing followed by compensatory behaviors

Main characteristics of bulimia: recurrent episodes of binge eating, recurrent and inappropriate behaviors to compensate and prevent weight gain, binge eating and compensatory behaviors, over-evaluation of body shape and weight

Session 7 – Psychotic Disorder

Mental health problems that cause a person to lose some touch with reality

There are numerous disorders in which a person can experience psychosis or a psychotic episode

Four phases: premorbid phase: time before symptoms start, prodrome phase: symptoms are vague and hardly noticeable, Acute phase: psychotic symptoms are experienced, recovery phase: with treatment, most people recover from the psychotic episode.

Signs and symptoms: depression, mood swings, increased anxiety, suspiciousness, blunted, inappropriate emotion, irrationally, angry or fearful responses to family or friends, change in appetite, reduced energy and motivation, unusual perceptual experiences, difficulties concentrating, sense of alteration of self, others or the outside world, inability to turn off their imagination, inappropriate use of language, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite,


SAYCW youth health survey

211 Saskatchewan

Kids help phone