Using first aid steps for mental health

Below you can watch videos on using mental health first aid steps in different example situations. First aid for mental health measures can be used in practice for a wide range of mental health concerns.

STEP 1: Make contact

Your first task is to approach the individual and try to understand if they are in the middle of a crisis.
  • Find a fitting time and place where you both feel safe.
  • If they don’t start a conversation with you or tell you how they feel then start one yourself.
  • Approach them and tell them that you are worried about them.
  • Respect their privacy and confidentiality.
The one giving mental health first aid should have the knowledge of determining a possible situation of crisis:
  • Could they hurt themselves?
  • Is their behaviour disturbing others (are they aggressive or have they lost touch with reality)?
If the situation is critical then you should seek help immediately and, if necessary, call the emergency number 112. If it is not critical then you can move on to the next steps.

STEP 2: Listen with care

When giving first aid for mental health, it is important to listen to the person without prejudices and without judging them.

When you are listening to them, you should set your judgements regarding their person or their situation aside. Most people in stress just wish that someone would unjudgementally listen to their story before they are offered help or solutions. To do that effectively, you should implement specific attitudes and listening skills that:

  • would allow you to really listen and understand what you are being told and that would make the other person feel like they can talk to you about their problems freely and without being judged.

STEP 3: Provide support

When you have listened to their troubles, it is easier for you, as the first aid giver, to offer them support and information. The aid that you can give is support – try to understand their feelings, offer them hope for recovery and give them practical aid. You can also ask them if they would like to get more information about mental health issues.

STEP 4: Encourage action

Ask them whether and what kind of professional help they have received or are getting. You as the first aid giver could tell them about available options of getting help and support. People with mental health problems generally recover better with help from a suitable professional. You should introduce available options to them, as they may not be aware of all of them. These options are: counselling, healthcare services, psychotherapy, support from family members, support services meant for achieving work or education related goals, financial aid, living accommodations.

STEP 5: Practice self-care

Encourage them to ask for necessary adjustments in their work environment, to use self-help strategies and to seek support from a family member, friend or someone else. Peer support advisors who have had previous experiences with mental health issues can also be instrumental in providing help.