Making a difference – the first Mental Health First Aid Impact Report

I blogged several years ago about my experience of training as a Mental Health First Aider. Since then, I’ve lobbied and worked to bring equal parity of esteem to mental and physical first aid.

So I was keen to read the first Impact Report from Mental Health First Aid England: does MHFA really work?

The statistics which open the report remain shocking. An average of fifteen people per day took their own life in 2017. The approximate cost per year of mental ill-health in England is £105 billion. And that does not include the personal cost of lives changed and relationships altered forever.

Over 140,000 people were trained in Mental Health First Aid in 2018/19. That is from the beginnings of training 9,000 in 2009. To date, over 400,000 people have had mental health first aid training. This includes the full course as well as the bespoke Armed Forces course; the course for those working in Higher Education; and the course for those working with young people.

Many employers now use Mental Health First Aid in training line-managers and promoting well-being in the workplace. The evidence shows that 72 million working days are lost each year due to mental ill-health. Several testimonials in the Impact Report give strength to the argument that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Alan Millbrow of Three UK says,

Mental Health First Aid is an essential part of our well-being strategy…..It has had an immediate positive impact on our people….We are keen to continue to break down barriers.

The national schools MHFA programme was introduced in June 2017, after Theresa May’s commitment that one staff member in each secondary school should be trained in MHFA. Youth MHFA in Schools has been funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. University College London evaluated the first year of the campaign, and had feedback that staff felt much better equipped to support a young person experiencing mental ill-health. As 75% of the onset of adult mental ill-health begins before the age of 18, early prevention is key. UCL found that only 30% of teachers felt they had the skills before training to support a young person with mental health issues; a year later, almost 90% felt they were confident giving the young person support.

Raising awareness and giving basic skills to come alongside someone experiencing poor mental health is what Mental Health First Aid is all about. Those with training have greater understanding of the most common mental health conditions and know what to do when someone is in crisis. Like someone trained in physical first aid, a mental health first aider can assess, offer immediate support and get appropriate help.

Read the report when you have a chance, it’s inspiring what has happened in the last ten years since MHFA’s launch. And go on some training if you ever have the opportunity. It might help you save someone’s life.





* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • John Chandler 11th Jul '19 - 5:57am

    I became a mental health first aider in 2016, after hearing about the course from the tech community organisation OSMI (Open Sourcing Mental Illness). It’s already proved itself useful on more than one occasion. Thoroughly recommended.

  • Thank you for this. I have now read the report, which otherwise I might not have heard about.
    As a political party we need to consider the contribution of poverty to poor mental health. And the converse – that poor mental and physical health are major contributors to poverty.
    It really is time we faced up to this.

  • How close are we to finding the biological causes of serious mental illness?
    And how close are we to removing the stigma on mental illness which is just as ruinous as any mental disease itself?

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