Mental Health First Aid – Youth

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

  • Recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges in youth ages 8-18
  • How to interact with a child or adolescent in crisis
  • How to connect the youth with help

Continuum of Care:
Universal Prevention

Topic Areas:
Anxiety, Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Depression, Eating Disorders, Substance Use, Suicide, Trauma

Childhood (4-12), Teen/Adolescent (13-18)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:
Community-Based, School-Based, Virtual

Cultural Considerations:
Limited research found involving diverse populations

Any adult who regularily interacts with youth - parents, teachers, coaches, etc.

There are no minimum qualifications for adults to teach the program. However, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing requires that adults who teach the program need to attend a MHFA Instructor training to be certified in the curriculum.


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
Find a course near you today, or email to schedule a special training for your organization, company or group.

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Ng, S. H., Tan, N. J. H., Luo, Y., Goh, W. S., Ho, R., & Ho, C. S. H. (2021). A Systematic Review of Youth and Teen Mental Health First Aid: Improving Adolescent Mental Health. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 69(2), 199–210.

Additional Sources:

Promising rating

WV Rating:
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

Although the MHFA-Y website suggested that the program has been evaluated on different populations and demographics, including social work students, school personnel, parents, youth workers, social services employees, mental health professionals, and juvenile justice employees, and has focused on a range of outcomes including mental health literacy, confidence, self-efficacy, attitudes, stigma, awareness of treatment resources, program satisfaction, behavioral interventions, recognition of cues to perform MHFA, and performance of MHFA actions, available quantitative research was limited. While multiple studies were identified, most evaluated satisfaction or other non-treatment-outcome targets. One meta-analysis (Ng et al., 2021) was identified that included 467 children from the United States and Australia and included a three-cluster randomized trial design. This study concluded that while general improvement was identified across behaviors, including improved helping behaviors with peers and general competence, authors also identified limitations. For example, behaviors evaluated were very broad in scope and included a range of conditions without controls for condition/diagnosis, prior/concurrent psychosocial treatments, prior/concurrent medication use, etc. Further, many of the studies utilized self-report, suggesting a need for more objective measures. Finally, while cross-country, the studied populations were variable (e.g., YMCA, Untied States schools, rural Australia).

Contraindications or Concerns:
None identified

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Not On Registry

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:
Not On Registry

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:
Not On Registry

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Not On Registry

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Not On Registry