What I learned from attending a Mental Health First Aid Course

What I learned from attending a Mental Health First Aid Course

By: Tina Spagnola, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, NE-BC, Director of Programs, Society of Pediatric Nurses

The number of patients with behavioral health needs has been on the rise, and this is well-documented. It is also evident that stress, burnout, and depression are impacting our healthcare professionals. In a study conducted by Melnyk et al. (2022), it was found that 79% of nurses reported their mental health worsening due to the pandemic. Additionally, an earlier study by Melnyk et al. (2018) established a correlation between mental health stresses and increased medical errors.

Given these circumstances, when I had the opportunity to attend the Mental Health First Aid Course, my thoughts immediately turned to my fellow healthcare providers and the Society of Pediatric Nurses members. How could I utilize this course and share what I have learned?

Originating from Australia in 2000, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) courses were introduced in the United States in 2008 through collaborations with organizations such as the National Council, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health. These courses are available both in blended virtual and in-person formats, providing certification for a duration of three years before attendees are required to renew by attending another course. MHFA offers training for adult and youth content, along with instructor courses. The aim is to have one certified First Aider for every fifteen individuals. It's important to note that First Aiders do not provide treatment or diagnosis; instead, they serve as crucial support systems by learning how to offer assistance effectively while advocating for appropriate professional support and services.

If you're interested in learning more about MHFA or participating in these courses, additional information can be found here https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/.

The national resources shared during the training are listed below:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

988 is the new, easy to remember three-digit dialing code connecting people to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline), where support from trained crisis counselors is available 24/7 nationwide for anyone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis or any other emotional distress.

Call 988

Text 988

Chat 988lifeline.org/chat


Crisis Text Line

Text “MHFA” to 741741

Available 24/7, 365 days a year, this organization helps people with mental health challenges by connecting callers with trained crisis volunteers who will provide confidential advice, support, and referrals if needed.


Lifeline Crisis Chat www.crisischat.org

Visit www.crisischat.org to chat online with crisis centers around the United States.


The Trevor Project

Call 866-488-7386 or Text “START” to 678678


Trained counselors are available 24/7 to support youth who are in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment free place to talk. Specializing in supporting the LGBTQI+ community.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline

Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.


SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.


Melnyk, B. , Hsieh, A. , Tan, A. , Teall, A. , Weberg, D. , Jun, J. , Gawlik, K. & Hoying, J. (2022). Associations Among Nurses' Mental/Physical Health, Lifestyle Behaviors, Shift Length, and Workplace Wellness Support During COVID-19. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 46 (1), 5-18. doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0000000000000499.

Melnyk, B. M., Orsolini, L., Tan, A., Arslanian-Engoren, C., Melkus, G. D., Dunbar-Jacob, J., Rice, V. H., Millan, A., Dunbar, S. B., Braun, L. T., Wilbur, J., Chyun, D. A., Gawlik, K., & Lewis, L. M. (2018). A National Study Links Nurses' Physical and Mental Health to Medical Errors and Perceived Worksite Wellness. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine60(2), 126–131. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000001198

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