Band-aids for the Brain


As a Scout leader, you are (I hope!) well versed in first-aid principles. If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve undoubtedly treated your share of minor injuries and maybe even called an ambulance or two. (I well remember the hours back in the pre-cellphone days that I spent in a Mobile, Ala., emergency room waiting for a doctor to track down a Scout’s parents to get permission to treat him.)

But what do you do if a Scout or Scouter’s problem is mental, not physical? Do you know how to triage stress, depression, or suicidality? If not, it might be time to learn about mental health first aid (MHFA).

Created in Australia back in 2000, MHFA training has since spread to more than 20 countries and reached 1.7 million people. In Australia, more than 2 percent of all adults have completed the training.

We in America are behind the curve. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH), nearly 100,000 Americans have completed the training, which is offered by more than 2,500 instructors across the country.

Here’s a description of the training from the NCBH website:

Mental Health First Aid is a groundbreaking public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common treatments. Mental Health First Aid is a live training course, which uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect persons to professional, peer and social supports as well as self-help resources.

Of particular interest to us as Scouters is Youth Mental Health First Aid, which is aimed at adults who work with youth ages 12-25. As the NCBH website explains, “The curriculum spans mental health challenges for youth, review of normal adolescent development, and intensive guidance through the ALGEE action plan for both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered in the manual include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.”

For more information on this important training, visit the NCBH website. On the right side of this page, the Find a Provider dropdown list lets you find a trainer in your state.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


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