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MHFA and ASIST Courses: How They Work Together

Posted by PCC Institute for Health Professionals on April 12, 2023

In today's post-pandemic world, mental health struggles have become increasingly more prevalent, affecting people evenly across every socioeconomic status, age, gender, and geographic location.  

Because of this, more resources are available for those who are struggling. MHFA and ASIST courses offer invaluable tools that you can use to help someone facing mental health and substance use challenges and to keep someone safe who has shown signs of suicidal risk.  

Let's look at each course and how it can benefit you, your community, and the world around you. 

What is MHFA? 

Mental Health First Aid, or MHFA, instructs participants to identify and help someone experiencing mental health struggles. MHFA also provides the needed tools to intervene in a way that helps and supports a person so they can get connected to proper care. It does not make you their medical doctor, but similar to CPR training, it prepares you to recognize when someone needs help and gives you the tools to do so. 

When a person takes MHFA training courses, they gain the knowledge to support, but not diagnose or treat a person's mental health condition. That remains the responsibility of doctors and other medical personnel. Instead, MHFA training helps you identify mental health struggles, intervene appropriately, and connect the person to the right medical resources to treat them properly.  

What Are The Benefits of Taking an MHFA Course? 

MHFA training equips everyday people with the tools to help people in crisis in their communities. Much like CPR training, MHFA training offers a way to make the world healthier, happier, and potentially save lives, enabling people to help or intervene when others may need it. 

According to Mental Health First Aid's official website, a person who completes an MHFA course: 

  • Gains valuable knowledge on how to notice signs, symptoms, and risk factors of addictions and mental illness 
  • Has a better understanding of their mental health as a result of MHFA training 
  • Can provide many professional and self-help resources for people with mental health and addictions when needed 
  • Is more likely to help someone with mental health struggles or substance challenges 

Over 2.5 million Americans have taken MHFA training, including First Lady Michelle Obama and NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray. 

What is ASIST? 

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, is the world's leading suicide intervention training program, designed by LivingWorks. This evidence-based, two-day program equips participants with the skills needed to identify a person struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations and offers resources for keeping them alive. 

The training program is available for anyone over 16. Although many health professionals require ASIST in their field, the course is recommended for people of every profession, including teachers, police officers, and even parents who volunteer at their children's schools. Over 50 peer-reviewed studies have proven that ASIST can and does equip everyday people to intervene and keep people around them safe. 

What Are The Benefits of Taking an ASIST Course? 

ASIST offers a two-day, in-person training course that teaches individuals how to create a safety plan with someone struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations. The program covers the following topics: 

  • Awareness 
  • Identification 
  • Engagement 
  • Understanding 
  • How to create a safe place 
  • How to build a plan for safety 

Overall, ASIST gives you the ability to identify someone who is at risk of suicide, provide the necessary resources, and, ultimately, keep them alive. 

Why You Should MHFA and ASIST Together 

MHFA and ASIST are equally essential tools in helping people struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse challenges, and suicidal thoughts or ideations, but there are some key differences. It's also important to note that neither course equips a person to diagnose or treat a medical condition. The goal is always to identify a problem, offer appropriate resources, and ensure that the person is safe.  

MHFA teaches general knowledge about mental health and identifying if a person is struggling. ASIST, on the other hand, provides the resources to help a person in crisis who potentially requires life-saving intervention. These courses offer a holistic approach to keeping the world healthier, happier, and fully alive. 

Sign up for MHFA or ASIST at Portland Community College 

MHFA and ASIST courses provide the tools needed to identify a person with mental illness, substance abuse challenges, and suicide risks while equipping you with ways to connect them with the appropriate medical professionals. Most of all, these trainings teach community members how to identify people's needs and save lives. 

We encourage you to sign up if you're interested in participating in MHFA or ASIST. Of the many continuing education courses offered at Portland Community College, MHFA and ASIST offer the invaluable potential for helping others in your community. Check out the courses we offer and browse our blog for more information.

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Topics: Healthcare, Mental & Behavioral Health

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