In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of advanced mental health first aid.

While basic knowledge and support are invaluable, there is room for improvement by providing more proactive mental health first aiders with advanced skills to address the complexities of mental health challenges.

In this guide, we’ll explore advanced mental health first aid techniques, equipping individuals with the skills to provide nuanced and effective support.

Crisis Intervention

Advanced mental health first aid involves learning to handle crisis situations such as a psychotic episode, severe panic attack or suicidal thoughts. The aim is to  stabilise the casualty’s mental health and ensure their immediate safety.

  1. Assess for safety: Determine if the person is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others. If there’s an imminent risk, seek emergency assistance immediately. Remove any potential means of harm, such as weapons or medications, from their vicinity.
  2. Call professional help: In a mental health crisis, be prepared to call 999 if there is a serious threat of suicide or serious harm, either to themselves or to others.
  3. Stay calm: It’s crucial to remain calm and composed, even if the situation feels overwhelming. Your demeanor can help reassure the person and prevent the situation from escalating.
  4. Stay with the person while professional help arrives.
  5. Avoid minimising or invalidating: Refrain from dismissing or trivialising their experiences. Statements like “snap out of it” or “it’s not that bad” are not helpful and should be avoided.
  6. Take care of yourself:  Remember to prioritize your own well-being and safety.

De-Escalation Strategies

Advanced mental health first aid responders are trained in de-escalation techniques to manage situations involving heightened emotions or agitation. This skill set involves effective communication, active listening, and strategies to diffuse tension in a supportive manner.

De-escalating a mental health crisis requires a calm and composed approach to ensure the safety of the individual experiencing the crisis and those around them.

The first step is to establish a non-threatening environment by ensuring privacy and reducing external stimuli.

Active listening plays a crucial role in de-escalation, allowing the person to express their emotions and concerns without judgment. Validating their feelings and empathising with their struggles can help build trust and rapport.

Additionally, using non-aggressive body language and speaking in a calm and reassuring tone can help create a comfortable atmosphere.

Advanced Communication Skills

Building on basic communication skills, advanced mental health first aid emphasises active listening, empathy, and non-judgmental communication.

By using clear and concise language, mental health first aiders can ensure that their messages are understood and that they are able to establish trust and rapport with the individual in need.

Additionally, being able to communicate effectively with other professionals is also important for mental health first aiders to ensure that appropriate care and support is provided.

Cultural Competency

Understanding cultural nuances and communication styles can help mental health first aiders provide culturally sensitive support to individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Stigma and beliefs: Cultural beliefs surrounding mental health can perpetuate stigma and discrimination. In some cultures, mental health issues are viewed as a personal weakness or a moral failing rather than a medical condition. This can lead to shame and discourage individuals from seeking help.

Social support: Cultural norms dictate the level of social support available to individuals experiencing mental health challenges. In some cultures, close-knit family structures or strong community ties may provide a robust support network, whereas in others, individualism might prevail, leading to feelings of isolation.

Expression and coping mechanisms: Cultural norms influence how individuals express and cope with mental health concerns. Some cultures may encourage open expression of emotions and seek professional help, while others may value stoicism and rely on religious or traditional healing practices.

Identity and intersectionality: Where culture intersects with other aspects of identity such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, people may face additional stressors related to discrimination, stigma or cultural conflicts, impacting their mental well-being.

Seeking help: Cultural attitudes towards mental health services can influence help-seeking behavior. Factors such as language barriers, distrust of Western medicine, or lack of culturally competent services may deter individuals from accessing appropriate care.

Understanding Co-occurring Disorders

Advanced training includes a deeper understanding of comorbidities. For instance, depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and personality disorders often co-occur with substance use disorders.

By having this knowledge, mental health first aiders can signpost to the most relevant support agencies.


While basic mental health first aid is a crucial foundation, advanced techniques empower responders to navigate complex situations with confidence and skill.

Our accredited Mental Health First Aider Course incorporates these advanced techniques which not only benefits individuals in distress but contributes to creating a more compassionate and informed workplace.

Published On: February 15th, 2024