Scotland pioneers mental health 'first-aider' scheme
MENTAL health "first-aiders" are to be trained across Scotland.
The national training programme, funded by the Scottish Executive and NHS Health Scotland, is the first of its kind in the world and will train at least 300 instructors over the next three years.
The roll-out is part of the Scottish Executive’s National Programme to Improve Mental Health and Well Being, and will be launched officially in June.
Gregor Henderson, the director of the Mental Health Programme, said the scheme is one of a number of initiatives to reduce the stigma attached to mental health.
Celebrities, including the chatshow host Trisha Goddard and the Scottish TV presenter Gail Porter, have already spoken out about their own problems with mental health to encourage others to come forward.
But despite increased publicity, rates of suicide have risen in Scotland in recent years, with 791 people taking their own lives in 2003.
Mr Henderson said mental health problems affect one in four people in Scotland at some point in their lives and more than three-quarters know someone who has suffered.
He said the best way to help is to teach the general public how to deal with such problems.
Based on the concept of first aid training, mental health first aid (MHFA) was developed at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, Canberra.
The method teaches the general public to recognise the symptoms of someone with mental health problems, such as difficulty coping with work, and to deal with a crisis situation through guiding someone towards professional help.
NHS Health Scotland ran a pilot scheme last year involving 15 people who went on to train 900 people across Scotland.
An independent evaluation of the pilot scheme found that people who attended the course not only lost their negative attitude to people with mental health problems but also improved their own mental health.
Scotland is one of the first countries with a strategic programme of MHFA. By October, 142 people will have been trained as instructors through a four- to six-day course, which requires regular refresher training.
Anyone who wants to train as a mental health first aider can contact Alana Atkinson at the Scottish Development Centre for Mental Health on 0131 555 5959.