Psychological First Aid

Mental Health First Aid Courses

Our health and wellbeing go beyond the physical aspects of ourselves. Mental health plays a role in our ability to participate in our communities. Mental health conditions can have a severe effect on all areas of our life including relationships at home, school and the workplace, our work performance and how we deal with stressful situations. While stress is normal, it is important to watch for severe reactions to stress which can cause a decline in our mental health stability. These extreme stress reactions can include:

  • Headaches/Body pains and muscle tension
  • Problems concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of self harm or harm to others
  • Change in appetite
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Anger or frustration
  • Guilt
  • Sadness
  • Fear or difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Insomnia or feeling weak or tired
  • Fixating on details
  • Withdrawing from others


Stress reactions can linger for some time while we adapt to various situations however, if these reactions persist or become worse it is important to seek help to protect yourself, your health and those around you. Developing positive coping strategies is key to focusing on the issue or problem and managing and reducing stress. These positive coping strategies are changes you make to your behavior and outlook to aide in overcoming personal issues or dealing with difficult situations. Effective health promotion including positive coping strategies is an integral part of resilience-based training which aims to equip individuals with skills to support themselves and others. Training in Psychological First Aid helps to reduce stigma associated with mental health crises and can reduce negative health outcomes for individuals by promoting positive conversations about wellness.

What are the 5 essential elements of Psychological First Aid?

 The goal of Psychological First Aid is to create and maintain an environment which one feels:
1) Safety
2) Calm & Comfort
3) Connectedness
4) Self-Empowerment, and
5) Hope

Psychological First Aid reduces psychological distress by providing a caring comforting presence, and education on common stress reactions. It empowers the individual by supporting strengths and helping build coping skills. It also provides avenues for support networks, and referrals to professional services when needed. 


What are the 3 main steps of Psychological First Aid?

  1. LOOK – Assess dangers and safety or security risks. Obtain information from those who need assistance.


  1. LISTEN – Pay attention and listen carefully, determine immediate needs and offer help to the person in crisis.


  1. LINK – Make relevant information, services and supports available. Help to solve the problem(s).



Who should take Psychological First Aid?

Psychological First Aid is for anyone wanting to practice self-care or learn to care for others. Experts in the field maintain that the effect of psychological first aid is related to the extent to which it has spread throughout communities. The aim is to deliver psychological first aid training widely throughout communities that are vulnerable to disasters or hardship. The core components of community-based psychological first aid training include skills like:

  • understanding traumatic stress
  • active   listening skills
  • how to make referrals and when
  • self-care

Psychological First Aid provides information and resources you can offer to someone to provide emotional support and practical help. There are many professionals who can offer help when someone is in crisis or may be experiencing the signs and symptoms of a mental illness or addiction. Providing the tools for people to assist others and themselves during emotional, social or environmental challenges  is the first step in creating environments that are healthy and supportive.

Which course is right for me?

The Red Cross course we teach is offered in blended training format that includes a self-directed online component, followed by an in-person, facilitated workshop. Learners will develop a self-care plan through the self-directed online component and then apply the principles of self-care in a facilitated workshop led by an instructor. While mental health first aid programs teach how to help someone experiencing a mental health emergency, Red Cross Psychological First Aid is a resiliency-based program for everyone that offers prevention and coping strategies for dealing with different types of stress resulting from various types of trauma.

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