Cultural adaptation of Mental Health First Aid guidelines
Many people who meet the criteria for a diagnosis of a mental illness in China do not receive treatment. While the reasons for lack of treatment are complex, family and friends who could play a role in recognising the signs of depression often lack the knowledge and skills to support their loved one.
The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training program, developed in Australia by Professor Anthony Francis Jorm and Betty Kitchener, focuses on training members of the public in how to assist someone who is developing a mental illness or in a mental health crisis situation such as suicide.
Evidence shows the MHFA program improves mental health first aid knowledge, the ability to recognise a mental disorder, beliefs about effective treatments, confidence and intentions to provide mental health first aid, and the amount of help provided. MHFA training has also been found to be an effective anti-stigma intervention.
Using a Delphi expert consensus method, PhD student Shurong Lu and researchers at the University of Melbourne and Shanghai Mental Health Centre culturally adapted the existing English-language MHFA guidelines for China. The adapted guidelines incorporate some new actions for the Chinese context, including those relating to different ways of respecting autonomy of a person with mental illness, the role of their families, as well as Chinese attitudes towards suicide and removal of the means of suicide.
The adapted guidelines can be used as a stand-alone product by laypeople needing guidance on helping a person in their social network who is developing a mental health problem. The guidelines have the potential to contribute to public knowledge and skills for earlier detection of mental disorders, increased help-seeking behaviors and better health outcomes for people with mental illness.
The MHFA program is a step towards more effective early intervention and treatment of mental health problems in China.