Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid was created in 2001 by Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education, and her husband Anthony Jorm, a mental health literacy professor. Kitchener and Jorm run Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national non-profit health promotion charity focused on training and research. Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm have granted permission to the National Council for Behavioral Health to reproduce and update this copyrighted material for the purposes of improving the mental health knowledge and skills of the US public in responding to early-stage mental illnesses and mental health crisis. Mental Health First Aid has spread to 23 additional countries and counting. The United States is just one of the many countries that have adapted the program from Australia.

History of Mental Health First Aid in Oklahoma

On November 8, 2008, Senate Bill 1422, The Mental Health First Aid Pilot Program came into effect in Chapter 13 Article 101 of Title 43 A, Oklahoma Mental Health Law. Contingent upon funding, the Department of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services developed and implemented the mental health first aid pilot program to train non-mental health professionals in how to support an individual in a mental health crisis situation until professional help can be obtained.. Funding for the Mental Health First Aid Pilot project was made possible by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) Mental Health Transformation State Incentive Grant (MH-TSIG).

As of December 2009, there were no program participants or individual course certifications, but once the Mental Health First Aid pilot program was implemented, as of December 31st, 2010 there were 260 individual course participants and 260 certifications. The National Council on Behavioral Health had also certified 45 Oklahoma MHFA instructors in various areas of interests from Higher Education to Faith Based and community partners. After successfully fulfilling its’ legislative objectives, the Mental Health First Aid pilot program was terminated on June 30th, 2011.

Since funding was no longer available, the Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Service developed avenues in continuing promotion and communication of Mental Health First Aid through implementing the curriculum into our Block Grant along with other programs and initiatives.

Today, the state of Oklahoma has certified 141 Mental Health First Aid Instructors with 11,064 certified as mental health first aiders and continues to increase. Our goal is to continue the Mental Health First Aid movement by educating and teaching Oklahomans the skills in how to help someone dealing with a mental health crisis and/or challenge. When more people are equipped with the tools needed to start a dialogue about mental health, the more people can get the help they need. Mental Health First Aiders can help save a life!