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Mental Health First Aid - Seniors

Canada has an aging population. As of July 1, 2015, there were more people aged 65 years and older in Canada than children under the age of 15 years. 

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The likelihood of experiencing a mental health problem or illness in a given year increases as of age 69 and currently, men aged 80 and older have the highest suicide rates in Canada.

MHFA Seniors is an adaptation of the MHFA Basic course that is intended to increase the capacity of seniors, families (informal caregivers), friends, staff in care settings and communities to promote mental health in seniors, prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible in seniors and intervene early when problems first emerge.

The course content and resource materials are based on best available evidence and practice guidelines and were developed in consultation with Canadian experts in the field of geriatric psychiatry. The curriculum was developed for the Mental Health Commission of Canada at Trillium Health Partners, a healthcare organizations which priorities seniors’ health and wellness.

Mental Health First Aid for Seniors is an elective course within the Geriatric Certificate Program and is open to both the Regulated and Non-Regulated Education Streams. To learn more about the Geriatric Certificate Program, click HERE.

Course model

In the MHFA Seniors course, you will gain a solid understanding of the 5 basic actions of ALIFE:

Assess safety: risk of suicide, serious physical deterioration, and/or harm to others
Listen non-judgmentally
Information and reassurance
Facilitate the senior getting appropriate professional help
Encourage support for the senior and caregiver

ALIFE is the framework for having a confident conversation about mental health with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.

Key outcomes

The aims of this course are to teach members of the public how to:

  • Recognize the symptoms of mental health problems or crises as they develop in seniors
  • Provide the initial help to seniors
  • Guide a senior and caregiver towards appropriate professional help
  • Provide strategies and resources to support both seniors and their caregivers

Crisis first aid skills learned

  • Substance overdose
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Panic attack
  • Acute stress reaction
  • Psychotic episode

Talk To Us

Interested in mental health training for your organization? Let us know
In appreciation, you’ll be automatically entered in a contest where you could win a cash prize or gift certificate. * Disclaimer: • Completion of the form is voluntary. • The information collected by the Mental Health Commission of Canada will only be used for the purpose described above.
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No purchase necessary. Open to residents of Canada age 13+ who are the intended recipient of an invitation to complete the Mental Health Commission of Canada MHFA, TWM and TWMFR / Knowledge Product] survey and participate in the contest. Starts October 3, 2022 at 12:00 a.m. ET and ends March 15, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 6 prizes available: (i) 1 x $500 CAD online retailer gift certificate prize; and (ii) 5 x $50 CAD online retailer gift certificate prizes. Limit 1 entry per person/email. Odds depend on number of eligible entries. Math skill-testing question required. Full rules and entry details

Course sections

1. Seniors

  • Canada’s aging population
  • What is health?
  • What are mental health problems?
  • Seniors living with mental illness
  • Recovery and resilience

2. Mental health first aid seniors

  • What is Mental Health First Aid?
  • MHFA for seniors
  • Aims of Mental Health First Aid for seniors
  • Stigma
  • Who are Mental Health First Aiders for seniors likely to be?
  • Engage in self-care

3. Substance-related disorders for seniors

  • What is a substance-related disorder?
  • Types of substance-related disorders
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • MHFA for a substance-related disorder
  • Crisis first aid for an overdose

4. Mood-related disorders for seniors

  • What is a mood-related disorder?
  • Types of mood-related disorders
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Physical health and depression in seniors
  • Risk factors
  • Suicide
  • MHFA for a mood-related disorder
  • Crisis first aid for suicidal behaviour

5. Anxiety and trauma-related disorders for seniors

  • What are Anxiety and Trauma Related Disorders?
  • What Causes Anxiety in Seniors?
  • Types of Anxiety and Trauma Related Disorders
  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Risk Factors
  • MHFA for Anxiety and Trauma Related Problems
  • Crisis First Aid for Panic Attacks
  • Crisis First Aid for Acute Stress Reactions

6. Dementia

  • Aging and Cognition
  • What is Dementia?
  • Types of Dementia
  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Risk Factors
  • Behavioural and Psychological Changes
  • Responsive Behaviours
  • MHFA for Dementia

7. Delirium

  • What is Delirium?
  • Types of Delirium
  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Risk Factors
  • Undiagnosed / Untreated Delirium
  • MHFA for Delirium

8. Psychosis

  • What is Psychosis?
  • Types of Psychosis
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk Factors
  • Causes of Psychosis in Seniors
  • MHFA for Psychosis
  • Crisis First Aid for a Psychotic Episode

MHFA Resources

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in Mental Health First Aid training for the first time. It was an eye-opening experience that really made me look inward and assess my outlook on mental health and what living with a mental illness entails. 

We know these past 4 months have been unusual to say the least. We have all reacted to the worldwide pandemic in our own way, doing the best we can every single day.

A lot of the time when I’m delivering mental health training, people tend to forget or overlook their mental health, because they think it doesn’t affect them.

MHFA Case Studies

Founded in 1983 in Canada, nabs is a unique charity specifically designed to support the health and well-being of all individuals in the media, marketing, and communications industry in Canada.

In 2018, Loblaw started working on being more proactive by providing store managers with the tools they need to respond to mental health crises in the workplace.

“Since the completion of the training, we are now seeing our units being more proactive in initiating discussions and understanding what community resources are available to further support our co-workers.”