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Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an evidence-based eight-hour training offered by the Behavioral Health Springboard (BHS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work.  

MHFA is designed to help participants develop the basic skills to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges and substance use in others; assist someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis; and connect individuals to professional resources that can provide additional care.  

Just as CPR training helps a layperson without medical training assist an individual following a heart attack, MHFA training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

During the 2022 academic year the School of Social Work hosted 64 trainings, which produced 1,000 new certified MHFA-ers on campus, thanks in large part to the work done by Mental Health First Aid Coordinator Alicia Freeman.  

MHFA training is available as a single full-day session or as two half-day sessions at no charge to interested faculty, staff and students. 

MHFA certificates remain valid for three years.  

If you have completed MHFA training and are interested in becoming an MHFA Training Instructor, click here for more information. 

The history of MHFA at Carolina 

UNC School of Social Work first began offering MHFA training at the Behavioral Health Springboard in the fall of 2015 thanks to an award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

In 2019, the School of Social Work received a new award from SAMHSA’s Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention program, which enabled the School to continue to offer this important training, focusing on “gatekeepers” on campus and helping MHFA coordinators to examine the policies, processes and programs necessary to create a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. 

Today, MHFA training is available as a single full-day session or as two half-day sessions at no charge to interested faculty, staff and students thanks to a 2022 award from the Office of the Chancellor, with supplemental funding for materials provided by a grant from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) through the UNC Systems Office. 

Interested in becoming an MHFA-er?  

Register online for upcoming MHFA training. You can also organize an MHFA workshop specifically for your UNC-Chapel Hill school, department, or unit. 


MHFA Program:  

Youth Mental Health First Aid 

In July 2023, the North Carolina Governor’s Office pledged $4.6 million to a new Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) program housed at the School in service to all 100 counties across North Carolina. The year-long grant covers costs to implement Youth MHFA and Teen MHFA in NC schools and youth-serving organizations. The YMHFA program is designed to support adults who engage with youth ages 12–17 and the Teen MHFA program equips teens in grades 10–12 to support other teens who may be struggling with mental health or substance use challenges. 

YMHFA hopes to train 100 instructors and certify 2,500 adults and 1,000 teens statewide for peer intervention before the expiration of the grant in June 2024.  

Fall 2023 MHFA Instructor trainings will prepare an expected 70 new instructors by the end of October.  

Three online courses will soon be available on an upcoming YMHFA website, including one that will target adults who work with younger children from ages 4–11.  

North Carolina’s expansive YMHFA training hopes to serve as a blueprint for other states moving forward. 

Interested in becoming a YMHFA-er? 

Request trainings and sign up for YMHFA training.