Long-term effects of Youth Mental Health First Aid training: Randomized controlled trial with 3-year follow-up

Amy J. Morgan, Julie Anne A. Fischer, Laura M. Hart, Claire M. Kelly, Betty A. Kitchener, Nicola J. Reavley, Marie B. H. Yap, Anthony F. Jorm

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training teaches community members how to provide initial support to someone with a mental health problem. Key gaps in the evidence base supporting the training are the longevity of effects beyond 6 months, effects on mental health first aid behavior, and the impact of support on the recipient of aid. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of the Youth MHFA course 3 years after training. Methods: 384 Australian parents of an adolescent aged 12-15 were randomized to receive either the 14-h Youth MHFA course or the 15-h Australian Red Cross Provide First Aid course. This paper reports outcomes at baseline and 3 years later. Primary outcomes were cases of adolescent mental health problems, and parental support towards their adolescent if they developed a mental health problem, rated by the parent and adolescent. Secondary outcomes included parent knowledge about youth mental health problems, intentions and confidence in supporting a young person, stigmatizing attitudes, and help-seeking for mental health problems. Data were analyzed with mixed-effects models with group by measurement occasion interactions. Results: 3-year follow-up data was obtained from 149 parents and 118 adolescents, who were aged 16.5 years on average. Between baseline and 3-year follow-up, there was a non-significant reduction in adolescent cases of mental health problems relative to the control group (odds ratios (OR) 0.16-0.17), a non-significant improvement in parental support reported by adolescents with a mental health problem (OR 2.80-4.31), and a non-significant improvement in the quality of support that parents reported providing to their adolescents with a mental health problem (d = 0.38). Secondary outcomes that showed significant improvements relative to the control group were parental knowledge about youth mental health problems (d = 0.31) and adolescent perceptions of general social support from their parents (d = 0.35). Conclusions: This paper reports on the longest follow-up of Mental Health First Aid training in a controlled trial. Three years after training, participants had maintained their improved knowledge about mental health problems. There were some indications of other positive effects, but the study was underpowered to clearly show benefits to mental health first aid skills and recipients of aid. Trial registration: ACTRN 12612000390886, registered retrospectively 5/4/2012, https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspxid=347502

Original languageEnglish
Article number487
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2020


  • Adolescent
  • Help-seeking behavior
  • Mental disorders
  • Mental health first aid
  • Parent
  • Social support

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