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Would You Know What to do in a Mental Health Emergency?


June 22, 2009, Press Dispensary. A quarter of us will experience at least one mental health problem in any one year, and yet stigma and prejudice are still widespread.

In recognition of this hidden health crisis, The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has today accredited the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training programme in England, developed to establish a network of people with the skills and knowledge to take this essential first aid training into the community.

Mental health problems can affect people at any time, in different ways, and many suffer in silence for a long time before eventually seeking help. The MHFA course trains people to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems, shows how to offer initial help to those affected, and provides information about professional support.

MHFA supports the government’s well-being agenda which highlights the importance of early intervention. Trainees on mental health first aid courses work in many different settings, including commercial organisations, teaching, police and prison services.

Fionuala Bonnar, programme director for Mental Health Services and Improvement, London Development Centre, part of Commissioning Support for London, said: “The MHFA course instructors are a vital link in our work to promote awareness of mental health problems. RSPH accreditation for our instructors’ programme shows that our courses are delivered to the RSPH’s very high standards, giving additional confidence to instructors, trainees and the public.”

RSPH chief executive professor Richard Parish comments: “Many people are familiar with first aid for physical health, but there is a much more limited understanding of first aid for mental health. Early recognition of mental health problems can make all the difference to the outcome for individuals and their families, and the mental health first aid course gives trainees the practical knowledge to help identify anyone who may need professional help. Excellent training for these instructors is essential to the success of this much needed work. RSPH accreditation confirms the high quality of the instructor training programme and I congratulate all those involved in achieving this recognition.”

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Notes for editors
1.The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is an independent, multi-disciplinary organisation, dedicated to the promotion and protection of collective human health and wellbeing. Through advocacy, mediation, empowerment, knowledge and practice, it advises on policy development, provides education and training services, encourages scientific research, disseminates information and certifies products, training centres and processes. A registered charity that enjoys patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, RSPH is the oldest public health body in the world, with over 150 years’ experience in its field of protecting and promoting public health. For further information on RSPH accreditation of training programmes, please contact: Anna Zilnyk, Royal Society for Public Health, tel: 020 3177 1624, email: , website

2. The National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU)

MHFA was originally developed in Australia and has been adapted for use in England by NMHDU. More than 100 MHFA instructors have now been trained.

The RSPH’s accreditation scheme is designed to endorse training programmes that support health, hygiene and safety. The MHFA instructor training programme has undergone an expert review, assessing how effectively it prepares potential instructors to deliver MHFA courses to trainees responsible for staff health and wellbeing. For more information on Mental Health First Aid training programmes and instructor courses, please visit

For further information, please contact:
Anna Zilnyk, Royal Society for Public Health
Tel: 020 3177 1624

Media contacts

Anna Zilnyk
Tel: 020 3177 1624