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CW: Mentions of suicide and self-harm.

What does it mean to be a mental health first responder? We hear this term a lot today, so let’s explore the concept and get a better understanding of who mental health first responders are and why they matter. Today, suicide remains a global leader in causes of death. From 2000-2021, suicide rates rose 36%, and in 2021 alone, 12.3 million American adults reported seriously considering suicide, according to the CDC. In addition to this, suicide ranks as a top 10 cause of death in the United States, with one person attempting suicide every 31 seconds. For every 25 attempts, there is one death.

Mental health responders, or mental health first aiders, are individuals who are willing to help others around them. These are those who could be struggling with mental health and may be in a tough place. First aiders are people willing to support others, as stated by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA describes the concept of mental health first aid as a way to “identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.”

To become a mental health first aider, one must undergo approximately eight hours of training and instruction on how to address a mental health crisis, according to UChicago Student Wellness. In a college campus setting, the training involves simulations and an understanding of what could trigger a scenario that calls for mental health first aid. Once the training is completed, these students are better equipped to help peers, as well as faculty, stay healthy and safe amidst the stressors of college life. Beyond the college level, MHFA also offers courses catered to various age groups.

In terms of suicide prevention, MHFA teaches participants the ALGEE method to address one who may be considering attempting suicide.
The method is as follows:
A– Assess the risk, what is the status of this crisis?
L– Listen, and don’t judge. Hear the person out.
G– Give support and information.
E– Encourage appropriate professional help, and refer them to a trusted counselor or adult.
E– Encourage self-help and reaffirm that you support them and care for them.
The role of mental health first aiders is crucial in our present-day society, with suicide and self-harm becoming of increasing concern. Getting certified is straightforward, and is going to become more and more important in this increasingly stressful world. Being there to support others, whether you know them or not, and potentially save a life, is what MHFA aims to promote. First aid doesn’t mean just band-aids over paper cuts anymore; first aid is for mental health, too.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at


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