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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

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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

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