Mental Health First Aid provides a practical response for intervention. It provides the real-world tool kit needed to take action to support a person who may be developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis in a meaningful way. The cornerstone of this training is the ALGEE Action Plan. ALGEE is a short and memorable mnemonic to remind us of the 5 key actions of a Mental Health First Aid Action Plan:
A – Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis

  • Ready yourself and be present in the moment
  • Make sure you have time to see the Action Plan through
  • Create a safe space free from interruptions, where you can have a conversation (this will depend on your location/environment)
  • Approach in a genuine and inviting way – make it clear you are available to offer support
  • Consider privacy, confidentiality and boundaries
  • Think of all the options for connection (over a coffee, on a walk, in a private meeting room, over the phone, via text or an agreed video call)
  • Be ready to assess mood, demeanour, body language and words to help you understand their situation
  • Act in a crisis (if the person is hurting themselves, a risk to others, or in suicidal crisis). Keep yourself safe and respect your own boundaries as a care giver. 

L – Listen and communicate non-judgementally

  • Use words that encourage the person to talk and to share their feelings
  • Be calm and approachable with tone, body language and words
  • Don’t talk too much or take attention off the person and their problems
  • Set aside any negative beliefs and reactions in order to focus on the needs of the person you are helping
  • Don’t use dismissive, stigmatising or belittling language
  • Use encouraging cues like nods, concerned expressions, and even smiles where appropriate – to show that you are listening and engaged
  • Repeat things back for clarity and understanding if needed
  • Ask questions and keep them talking and sharing
  • Let them get their feelings out and feel safe in your space – they may cry, scream, get nervous, talk quietly, be jittery, act erratic etc.

G – Give support and information

  • Explore experiences, symptoms, feelings and challenges with dignity and respect
  • Do not blame the person for their mental health problems
  • Help the person to see they are not alone and that their mental health problem is not shameful
  • Provide reassurance and emotional support
  • Don’t push the person into discussions, options or actions that they are not comfortable with
  • Have realistic expectations of the person
  • Offer positive and encouraging words that provide hope for treatment, management and recovery
  • Offer practical help with immediate tasks to relieve symptoms or feel safe e.g. a quiet place to sit down, a drink of water, help to call a family member/friend
  • Explore options – find out what they’ve tried, what has worked and what hasn’t

E– Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help

  • Ask the person if they need help to manage what they are feeling and experiencing and whether they are receptive to seeking formal supports
  • Talk about options that a professional can provide that you cannot: medications, referrals, professional counselling
  • Explain that seeking professional help is brave, important, normal, common and nothing to be ashamed of
  • Discuss options for the next step depending on their situation and your setting – local GP, Counsellor/Psychologist, Employee Assistance Program.
  • Consider other services – mental health service providers, helplines, support groups
  • Offer to help seek out options – look for local services online, make phone calls, etc
  • If the person doesn’t want professional help explore possible barriers such as previous bad experience, financial barriers or access issues – help look for ways to overcome these
  • Check to see that they are clear on their next steps
  • Respect the person’s right not to seek further help (unless you believe they are at risk of immediate self-harm or harming others).

E – Encourage other supports

  • Talk about family and friends who can support them
  • Discuss how they might approach a discussion with these people
  • Ask if they need help to facilitate contact with someone who can provide support
  • Ask if there are self-care actions, activities or places that can help make them feel better in both the short and long-term
  • Discuss finding local support groups for people with similar problems if the person is interested
  • Talk about limiting alcohol/other substances that may exacerbate symptoms and impair thinking
  • Talk about the next positive steps the person can take to keep the person feeling a bit better, safe and connected.