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  • Elizabeth Eldridge

Mental Health First Aid Training: What's New and Exciting?


As some readers will know that my start in training and consulting work came from the exceptional experience I had many years ago as a participant in the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Mental Health First Aid program. In 2012 I became certified as a facilitator and a fierce advocate with a particular focus on the importance of MHFA in the workplace. My company Arpeggio Health Services is heading toward its 10 year anniversary and a lot has changed! We’ve grown into eastern Canada’s largest public provider of the program, offering the MHFA Basic program as well as specialized adaptations that focus on supporting youth and seniors. The pandemic threw a wrench in our ability to deliver training in person of course but we were fortunately able to adapt and grow through the chaos. We jumped at the opportunity to take the additional training provided through the Mental Health Commission in order to deliver Mental Health First Aid training virtually at a time when Canadians perhaps needed to know how to support one another and care for their own mental wellbeing more than ever before. We’ve been among the first in the country to offer the virtual adaptations of three different MHFA program types and today I thought I’d share a little about what that looks like.


If you’re not familiar with Mental Health First Aid, it’s an evidence based program owned and regulated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. In translating the course material to be delivered in a virtual classroom environment instead of a live physical classroom one of the Commission’s priorities was ensuring a psychologically safe and comfortable learning environment considering the sometimes sensitive topics discussed, including suicide and other crisis situations. For this reason, every session is capped at just 15 participants with a minimum of 8. The virtual programs employ a highly interactive blended model comprised of 3 learning modules. Module 1 is self-directed, completed independently by participants through an online learning platform and taking about 2 hours. The first module does a beautiful job of laying a solid foundation so that when participants come together in the virtual classroom everyone has a basic understanding of the Mental Health First Aid principles. Modules 2 and 3 (3.5 hours each for MHFA Standard and 4 hours each for MHFA: Supporting Seniors and MHFA: Supporting Older Adults) are led by a certified Mental Health First Aid training facilitator in our virtual classroom using the Zoom platform. In addition to the vital skills participants learn through the training itself, those who successfully complete the training earn an internationally recognized certificate issued by the Mental Health Commission of Canada that bolsters any résumé and complements certification in “traditional” First Aid/CPR.


Here’s an overview of the three different versions of Mental Health First Aid we’re now offering virtually:


Mental Health First Aid Standard (9 hours)


Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the support provided to a person who may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health crisis. This course covers a broad range of material and is well suited to members of the public and organizations aiming to reduce stigma, improve understanding and resources, empower team members to support one another and adopt Canada’s best practice guidelines related to mental health in the workplace. Course participants will learn how to recognize signs that a person may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health crisis and encourage that person to:

  • Talk about declines in their mental well-being

  • Discuss professional and other supports that could help with recovery to improved mental well-being

  • Reach out to these supports

  • Assist in a mental health or substance use crisis

  • Use MHFA actions to maintain one’s own mental well-being

Mental Health First Aid: Supporting Youth (10 hours)


Mental health and substance use disorders often start in adolescence or early adulthood. When these disorders start at this stage in life, they can affect the young person’s education, movement into occupational roles, forming of key social relationships and of healthy habits related to eating, sleeping, and substance use. This is why it's so important to detect problems early and ensure the person is properly supported.

This course is designed for members of the public who have frequent contact with young people (ages 12 to 24); for example, parents and guardians, school staff, sports coaches and youth workers. It is most relevant in situations when it's first becoming apparent to an adult that a young person in their family, classroom or other network is developing a mental health problem, but also provides useful information on assisting a young person who has a history of a mental illness or longer-term mental health and/or substance use problems.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Recognize signs that a young person may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health/substance use crisis

  • Initiate conversations that encourage a young person to talk about a mental health/substance use problem

  • Discuss professional and other supports that can help with recovery to improved mental well-being

  • Assist in a mental health/substance use crisis situation

  • Check in with one’s own mental well-being


Mental Health First Aid: Supporting Older Adults (10 hours)


The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that one in every five Canadians experiences a mental health or substance use problem within a given year. These problems can affect older adults in a unique way. While people often know a lot about physical illness, most people have less knowledge about mental health and substance use problems. This lack of understanding often leads to fear and negative attitudes towards those living with these problems. It can prevent people from seeking help for themselves and from providing appropriate support to people around them.

This course is designed for people who have frequent contact with older adults; for example, family members, friends, public and private caregivers, community health workers, and volunteers.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Recognize signs that an older adult may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a crisis

  • Have conversations that encourage an older adult to talk about declines in their mental well-being, discuss professional and other supports that could help with recovery and reach out to these supports

  • Assist with helpful actions in a mental health or substance use crisis

  • Use MHFA actions to maintain one’s own mental well-being


I’ve personally certified 862 individuals in Mental Health First Aid virtually since delivering my first one in early December 2020 – which means a whole lot of courses (60, to be exact!) since our maximum group size is 15 participants. Becoming MHFA-certified is a tangible step toward ensuring our family/friend groups, workplaces and society are large are psychologically safer and healthier spaces. We regularly lead private training sessions for organizations who have set goals of reducing stigma and improving mental health at work – connect with our office at info@arpeggiohealthservices.com to arrange that. If you’ve been thinking about taking Mental Health First Aid training yourself, sign up for a course today at www.arpeggiohealthservices.com. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!



Elizabeth Eldridge is a Psychological Health & Safety Consultant based in southern New Brunswick, Canada. In addition to frequent keynote speaking and corporate training on mental health she is the owner/operator of Arpeggio Health Services, Atlantic Canada’s largest provider of public mental health trainings. Learn more at elizabetheldridge.com, summitcorporatewellness.com and arpeggiohealthservices.com.

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