Mental Health First Aid

The root of most stigmas is generally fear. The stigma surrounding mental illnesses in America is no different: fear of not understanding the problem, fear of doing or saying the "wrong" thing, and fear of not knowing what to do when someone needs help.

Mental Health First Aid is a groundbreaking public education program that helps the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Mental Health First Aid USA is managed, operated, and disseminated by three national authorities the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health. In Iowa the Division of Mental Health and Disability Services is coordinating Mental Health First Aid, and Iowa currently has 90 instructors statewide.

Mental Health First Aid is offered in the form of an interactive 8-hour course that presents an overview of mental illness and substance use disorders in the U.S. and introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common treatments. Those who take the 8-hour course to certify as Mental Health First Aiders learn a 5-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to help an individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help care.

The 8-hour Mental Health First Aid USA course has benefited a variety of audiences and key professions, including: primary care professionals, employers and business leaders, faith communities, school personnel and educators, state police and corrections officers, nursing home staff, mental health authorities, state policymakers, volunteers, young people, families and the general public. See how you can get involved - find a 8-hour Mental Health First Aid course near you.

If you are interested in learning more about MHFA, would like to become certified or learn how your agency can participate in training, please contact:

Karen Hyatt, Program Planner 3
Iowa Department of Human Services
Division of Mental Health and Disability Services
Bureau of Community Services & Planning
1305 E. Walnut Street, 5th Floor SE 
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0114 
Phone: 515-281-3128
Fax: 515-242-6036


Laura Larkin, Executive Officer 2
Iowa Department of Human Services
Division of Mental Health and Disability Services
Bureau of Community Services & Planning
1305 E. Walnut Street, 5th Floor SE 
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0114 
Phone: 515-242-5880
Fax: 515-242-6036


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