Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)


First aid is the help given to an injured person before medical treatment can be obtained. Mental Health First Aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves.

The most common and disabling mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety, substance use and psychotic disorders. Mental illnesses are very common. In any one year about one in five adult Australians experience a mental illness. Many people suffer a mental illness for a long time before they seek help. Furthermore, alcohol and drug problems frequently occur with depression, anxiety and psychosis.


While people often know a lot about common physical health problems, there is widespread stigma associated with mental health problems. These stigmatising attitudes prevent people from seeking help early and seeking the best sort of help. It also prevents people providing appropriate support to colleagues and family members, simply because they do not know how.

In order to help people provide initial support to someone with a mental health problem, Mental Health First Aid Courses have been developed by Betty Kitchener and Professor Tony Jorm. The aim of these courses is to improve the mental health literacy of members of the Australian community. Mental Health First Aid Australia is a national not-for-profit charity focused on mental health training and research. More info here.

Mental Health First Aid courses are conducted in every state and territory of Australia. The participants have been very varied, including teachers, nurses, case managers, support workers, social welfare staff, employment agencies staff, personnel staff, members of the general public, and staff of many Commonwealth State and Local Government Departments.

DO YOU WANT TO ATTEND A WORKSHOP? Check out our upcoming courses.

DO YOU WANT ME TO RUN A WORKSHOP FOR YOUR ORGANISATION/SCHOOL? In 2011 I was officially recognised by “Mental Health First Aid Australia” as a Master Instructor for both the Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid Courses which I’m obviously very excited about and feel very privileged to have this title. The feedback from these courses is always so incredibly positive and it’s exciting to see the impact that this program has on participants. I run the MHFA Workshops several times a year in the Newcastle/Hunter for the general community and also in various regional centres and cities throughout Australia. I can also tailer it to a specific organisation or audience (or conduct totally individualised training, specific to the needs of a school or organisation). Costs will vary depending on the organisation, numbers, catering etc but if you’re interested in me giving you a quote please complete the form below and I’ll gladly get a quote to you.

I also run a Youth Mental Health First Aid course for those who work or live with adolescents. 

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Informative, relatable and worthwhile for a clearer vision of where our students are at, what they are feeling, why they are feeling it and the best approach to maximise chances of bringing about positive outcomes in their mental health. A great course for 'both sides of the desk/fence' as it covers all stakeholders in teenage mental health.

Jess Moeller
Modbury High School

I left wanting to learn more!

This training should be mandatory for anyone working with young or vulnerable people. Geoff's presentation style kept the whole group engaged for the whole two days. I certainly learned a lot and I will be looking forward to doing a refresher course in a few years.

Jennifer Mann

Engaging, educational and practical

Seven or us attended the training and all agreed that this was a rare course that combined all the key aspects we wanted. This is one of the only training opportunities I have been on where everyone was looking forward to day 2.

We learnt a lot about youth mental health and most importantly how we can help our students. Knowing that we can intervene in a positive manner, without causing harm to our students left us feeling much more positive about our roles.

Hannah Downes
Modbury High School

Hi Geoff,

I attended the MHFA training you ran last week and I wanted to say a big thank you because it really was very engaging and you did an amazing job.

I also wanted to email especially to say that I've never experienced any kind of course on mental health that hasn't made me feel uncomfortable or lesser as a person until now. 

I have had some huge challenges in terms of my own mental health, which includes a recent admission to a mental health unit.  Your training was amazing!!  Your compassion and lack of judgement really shone through and I want to say thank you for that.  For the first time ever I feel less embarrassed and confident that I can live well in spite of mental health challenges.


*name withheld*

"I thoroughly enjoyed this course, and I think a large reason of that was because of Geoffrey Ahern. He was passionate and engaging and made myself and my peers come out of each session feeling uplifted and inspired. It was really refreshing listening to someone that was obviously passionate and committed to his work which made me excited and eager to listen and learn." 

Thank you, 

Jessica Harvey 

Jessica Harvey

Geoff is an amazing trainer, very passionate and a great communicator

As a volunteer of Refuge of Hope and a Employee of Living Positive Victoria I found the Mental Health First AID training incredibly helpful. The class is very well structured and the language is easy to understand. The resource book is well designed and easy to ready.

Thank you Geoff, this is one of the best training I have ever had.

Cristian Cortes

Cristian Cortes
Refuge of Hope


Geoffrey is a rare human being, who has the capacity to educate, inform and inspire those he speaks to with a compassion and expertise not often seen in the world today. I can not recommend him more highly.

Laura Heeley

“In twenty years as a teacher this is the best mandatory training that I have ever had to attend.”  

David, Newcastle Grammar School.

“Geoff’s presentation was nothing short of excellent! He obviously has a thorough working knowledge of the material and delivers it in a lively, entertaining and engaging manner.  He is a first class communicator who not only delivers the material, but is careful to value every attendee.”  

Michael, Lifeline, Hervey Bay.

“Geoff really knows his stuff.  He backed everything up with research which was really important to me as a retired university lecturer.”  

David – Hunter Community College

“I love how Geoff used stories from his own experience as a Mental Health Nurse to bring to life the theoretical side of Mental Health.”  

John – Hunter Community College

“Geoff is such a passionate teacher.  It’s obvious that he loves what he is doing.”

Matt – Youth Worker, Cessnock.

“I’ve had so much positive feedback from this course that I want to make it a part of our program and run it every couple of months.  

Sheena – Manager, Morisset Multi Purpose Youth and Community Centre

“A day after finishing this course I found myself talking with a young student who was suicidal.  I felt confident enough to work with them and assist them and it went really well.”  

Sue, High School Teacher

“I learnt a lot about effective listening from Geoff.  I found it very helpful, enlightening and extremely interesting”  

Kate – Volunteer, The Maycare Centre

“I learned so much about not only mental illness, but also about myself.”  

Lynne – Psychology Student, Newcastle University

“I think all staff should do this course, not just welfare staff.”

Peter, Whitebridge High School

“This was so interesting I did not want it to end.”

Julie, Hunter Community College
Hunter Community College
Thank you again for the course last week, it was one of the most interesting and well presented courses I've been to. Your passion and understanding of the material is inspiring.I just wanted to share with you... A work colleague's son has been suffering depression recently and on Friday he became suicidal. She felt helpless and was quite distraught as she didn't know his whereabouts and didn't know what course of action to take.After the course I felt so much more confident in giving her advice and talking about options etc. She had no idea that the police could be called for help and to intervene if necessary, and she proceeded to do that. The ambulance was called and the usual protocols were observed.  They were really helpful and understanding.  He is doing okay, and they are continuing with counselling etc, and the doctor has put him on anti depressants (and I even know about the dangers of this but that sometimes it is a good option and we know what to look out for).

So- thank you so much. I am so much better equipped to deal with some of the situations that have crossed my path previously.

High School Teacher, Newcastle


“I’ve been commissioning training for Centrelink for the last 5 years. Recently I gave Geoff a briefing on some Mental Illness and Drug and Alcohol training that I wanted for some 45 job capacity assessors. The training Geoff tailored for us was informative, educational, entertaining and right on the mark. The general consensus among the staff on the day was that it was the best 4 hours of mandatory training they had ever attended.”

Maureen - Training Manager, Centrelink

“I am so glad to have attended Geoff Ahern’s two day workshop on Mental Health First Aid. Geoff’s presentation was nothing short of excellent! He obviously has a thorough working knowledge of the material and delivers it in a lively, entertaining and engaging manner. He is a first class communicator who not only delivers the material well but also is careful to value every attendee. Geoff holds the attention of the participants for two full days which demonstates a rare giftedness. When will you be offering the followon course, Geoff, because I’m keen to attend?”

Michael, Hervey Bay, QLD