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A community mental health education program that has spread worldwide

MHFA training has spread rapidly both in Australia and worldwide. Since it began in 2000, the training has spread to every state and territory in Australia and currently to 20 other countries (more on international MHFA Programs).

In its tenth year in 2011, MHFA reached a milestone with 170,000 adults having attended a MHFA course in Australia, equivalent to 1% of the Australian adult population. In an invited editorial published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in 2011, MHFA founders Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm reflect on the factors contributing to this landmark achievement and the remarkable growth of MHFA over the previous ten years. In 2015, it was estimated that 2.16% of the adult population has attended a MHFA course in Australia since 2001.

A large factor associated with the wide impact of this training both in Australia and worldwide is attributed to MHFA Australia's commitment to evaluating its training programs using rigorous, scientific studies, since the program began in 2000.

Evaluations have consistently shown that MHFA training is associated with improved knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, knowledge of appropriate first aid strategies, and confidence in providing first aid to individuals with mental illness. Research shows that these benefits are sustained over time. Some studies have also shown improved mental health in those who attend the training, decreases in stigmatising attitudes and increases in the amount and type of support provided to others.

A number of these evaluations were conducted by Mental Health First Aid Australia or the Population Mental Health Group led by Professor Tony Jorm (co-founder of MHFA) at the University of Melbourne. Evaluation studies have also been conducted by independent organisations nationally and internationally. A meta-analysis published in 2014 reviewed all the published evaluation articles on the MHFA Program and concluded that the results demonstrate that MHFA increases participants’ knowledge regarding mental health problems, decreases their negative attitudes, and increases supportive behaviours toward individuals with mental health problems. The researchers concluded that the MHFA Program appears recommendable for public health action.

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Mental Health First Aid is listed on the Centre for Global Mental Health and the World Health Organisation's Mental Health Innovation Network.