The teen MHFA Course teaches high school students in years 7-9 and 10-12, how to provide mental health first aid to their friends. The course was developed in response to research indicating that young people have a preference for sharing problems with peers. The course curriculum is evidence-based, informed by a study undertaken to determine the best actions a young person can undertake to support a peer with a mental health problem.
Find out more about the teen MHFA Program:
An initial research evaluation of the teen MHFA course found that, after completing the course, participants had improved knowledge of mental health problems and their treatment, increased confidence in providing mental health first aid to a peer, and increased help-seeking intentions. Additionally, participants' stigmatising attitudes were reduced. More info.
What the course covers
Students learn the teen MHFA Action Plan, as well as information about different types of mental health problems and mental health crisis situations in young people, and the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Rather than focusing on specific mental illnesses, the course teaches participants to recognise when a friend is experiencing major changes in their thinking, feeling and behaviour, that are interfering with daily life and not going away as quickly as expected, as this may indicate the presence of a mental health problem.
Mental health crisis situations covered are:
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviours
- Non-suicidal self-injury (sometimes called deliberate self-harm)
- Intoxication, and
- Bullying and abuse./li>
In the program for older students, the focus is on suicide, and involves frank discussion of suicide. A film showing a young man helping a suicidal friend is used to demonstrate how to talk about suicide and assist someone who is having thoughts of suicide. In the program for younger students, crises are not emphasised, in order to be developmentally appropriate, however the same action plan is taught.
What are the benefits?
Prior to the launch of the teen MHFA program, the course was delivered to 1,000 year 10 and 12 students across four schools in the greater Melbourne region as part of a pilot evaluation study. This study demonstrated positive benefits - view the summary of findings.
Course format and delivery
The delivery format is 3 interactive classroom sessions of 75 minutes each, on non-consecutive days. The course has been specifically designed to be engaging for this age group, and uses videos, group discussions and activities.
Who can attend a course?
The teen MHFA Course can only be taught to Years 7-9 and 10-12 students in settings which also have Youth MHFA Courses conducted for responsible adults. The Youth MHFA Course teaches adults how to assist adolescents who are developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. However, it does not have to be taught in school settings. Sports clubs, juvenile justice settings and service organisations are all using the training and finding it successful and relevant.
It does need to be provided to the entire group. This means, for example, every year ten student, or everyone on the team, or every young person in the setting. If a smaller group is taught, they can see themselves as having a new responsibility. Instead, our aim is to provide every young person with the skills they need to assist a friend.
Note: This course is not a therapy or support group, rather it is an education course for adolescents to learn how to give mental health first aid to peers.
Finding an Instructor
MHFA does not centrally coordinate courses. Contact any of the teen MHFA instructors listed on the Instructor page to arrange a course in your high school. Most instructors are willing to travel but need expenses covered. If you are looking for tMHFA training in your area and can't find anyone nearby to run it, contact a local Youth instructor and let them know you are interested. They can then consider the feasibility of attending instructor training.
Want more information?
Detailed information for young people, parents, schools and other settings is available.
Interested in becoming a teen MHFA Instructor?
Given the requirement that the teen MHFA Program is delivered in settings where Youth MHFA has also been taught to adults, you will need to partner with a Youth MHFA Instructor in order to be eligible to apply. See all the selection criteria to apply as a teen MHFA Instructor.