Youth Mental Health First Aid: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who should take a Mental Health First Aid course?
Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach youth serving adults, health and human services workers, faith community members, police workers, parents, guardians, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis.
How long does it take to participate in Mental Health First Aid course?
The Mental Health First Aid course runs 8 hours and may be offered in a variety of formats. Most often, it is provided in one day, or in two 4-hour sessions spaced over a short period of time. One must be present for the entire curriculum in order to be eligible for certification.
Is there evidence to support the effectiveness of the program?
Yes. Peer reviewed studies from Australia and across the globe show that the program saves lives, improves the mental health of the individual administering care and the one receiving it, expands knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, increases the services provided, and reduces overall social distance toward individuals with mental illnesses by improving mental health literacy. One trial of 301 randomized participants found that those who trained in Mental Health First Aid have greater confidence in providing help to others, greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help, improved concordance with health professionals about treatments, and decreased stigmatizing attitudes.
Who is ONTRACK Program Resources?
ONTRACK Program Resources is a Sacramento, CA-based leader in providing high quality, cost-effective training, consultation, and technical assistance. Since 1997, ONTRACK Program Resources has helped hundreds of organizations implement evidence-based, culturally responsive, best practices to achieve better outcomes with diverse communities, especially those at risk for substance use and mental health disorders, trauma, domestic violence, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, HIV, poverty, and other challenges.
What is expected of me after the training once I become a Youth Mental Health First Aider?
  1. It is expected that you will feel better equipped to identify and respond effectively to signs of early mental health issues and/or crisis in a young person, and that you will be able to skillfully 1) use the 5 Step Plan and 2) refer young people who might benefit from services to appropriate mental health agencies (a local Mental Health Services Resource Guide is given to participants.). The training does not train you to provide clinical interventions yourself, but to be of assistance in routing the young person to appropriate clinical services.
  2. The Project AWARE grant that underwrites these no-cost YMHFA trainings requires that data be gathered on referrals of young people to mental health services. Therefore, you will be expected to use the “YMHFA Referral Tool” (found at to document your interactions with young people when you refer them to services.


OnTrack Program Services CALCAP-YMHFA