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Mental Health First Aid - Supporting Older Adults

Canada has an aging population. As of 2021, there are 7 million people in Canada aged 65 or older.

The likelihood of experiencing a mental health problem or illness in a given year increases as of age 69.

MHFA Supporting Older Adults is an adaptation of the MHFA course that is intended to increase the capacity of older adults, families (informal caregivers), friends, staff in care settings and communities to promote mental health in older adults, prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible in older adults and intervene early when problems first emerge.

The course content and resource materials are based on best available evidence and practice guidelines and were developed in consultation with Canadian experts in the field of geriatric psychiatry. The curriculum was developed for the Mental Health Commission of Canada at Trillium Health Partners, a healthcare organization which prioritizes older adults’ health and wellness.

Mental Health First Aid Supporting Older Adults is an elective course within the Geriatric Certificate Program and is open to both the Regulated and Non-Regulated Education Streams. 

Course model

In the MHFA Older Adults course, you will gain a solid understanding of the 5 basic actions of ALIFE:

Assess safety: risk of suicide, serious physical deterioration, and/or harm to others
Listen non-judgmentally
Information and reassurance
Facilitate the senior getting appropriate professional help
Encourage support for the senior and caregiver

ALIFE is the framework for having a confident conversation about mental health with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.

Key outcomes

The aims of this course are to teach members of the public how to:

  • Recognize the symptoms of mental health problems or crises as they develop in seniors
  • Provide the initial help to seniors
  • Guide a senior and caregiver towards appropriate professional help
  • Provide strategies and resources to support both seniors and their caregivers
Portrait Of Active Senior Friends Sitting Taking A Break Hiking Through Countryside Together | Portrait d'amis seniors actifs assis faisant une pause en randonnée à travers la campagne ensemble
Shot of a happy senior couple out for a hike on a sunny day | Photo d'un couple de personnes âgées heureux en randonnée par une journée ensoleillée

Crisis first aid skills learned

  • Substance overdose
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Panic attack
  • Acute stress reaction
  • Psychotic episode

Course sections

1. Older Adults

  • Canada’s aging population
  • What is health?
  • What are mental health problems?
  • Older adults living with mental illness
  • Recovery and resilience
Senior couple having fun inside convertible car - Multiracial mature people on road trip in summer vacation with cabriolet car | Couple senior s'amusant à l'intérieur d'une voiture décapotable - Personnes matures multiraciales en voyage en vacances d'été avec voiture cabriolet
Senior fitness man doing kettle bell exercises inside gym - Fit mature male training in wellness club center - Body building and sport healthy lifestyle concept | Homme de fitness senior faisant des exercices de kettlebell à l'intérieur de la salle de gym - Entraînement masculin mature dans le centre du club de bien-être - Concept de musculation et de sport mode de vie sain

2. Mental health first aid seniors

  • What is Mental Health First Aid?
  • MHFA for older adults
  • Aims of Mental Health First Aid for older adults
  • Stigma
  • Who are Mental Health First Aiders for older adults likely to be?
  • Engage in self-care

3. Substance-related disorders for older adults

  • What is a substance-related disorder?
  • Types of substance-related disorders
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • MHFA for a substance-related disorder
  • Crisis first aid for an overdose
Senior Casually Dressed Couple with Grey Hair is Having Nice Time on Warm Sunny Day in Public Park. They are Sitting on the Wooden Bench and Taking Selfie Photos with Mobile Phone. | Un couple senior habillé de façon décontractée avec des cheveux gris passe du bon temps lors d'une chaude journée ensoleillée dans un parc public. Ils sont assis sur le banc en bois et prennent des photos de selfie avec leur téléphone portable.
Cheerful senior couple having fun while holding hands and running in autumn season at sunset. Focus is on woman. | Joyeux couple senior s'amusant tout en se tenant la main et en courant en automne au coucher du soleil. L'accent est mis sur la femme.

4. Mood-related disorders for older adults

  • What is a mood-related disorder?
  • Types of mood-related disorders
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Physical health and depression in seniors
  • Risk factors
  • Suicide
  • MHFA for a mood-related disorder
  • Crisis first aid for suicidal behaviour

5. Anxiety and trauma-related disorders for older adults

  • What are anxiety and trauma-related disorders?
  • What causes anxiety in older adults?
  • Types of anxiety and trauma-related disorders
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • MHFA for anxiety and trauma-related problems
  • Crisis first aid for panic attacks
  • Crisis first aid for acute stress reactions
Man and woman, senior married couple taking a walk together.
Group Of Active Senior Friends Enjoying Hiking Through Countryside Walking Along Track Together | Groupe d'amis seniors actifs appréciant la randonnée à travers la campagne en marchant le long de la piste ensemble

6. Dementia

  • Aging and cognition
  • What is dementia?
  • Types of dementia
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • Behavioural and psychological changes
  • Responsive behaviours
  • MHFA for dementia

7. Delirium

  • What is delirium?
  • Types of delirium
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • Undiagnosed / untreated delirium
  • MHFA for delirium
Shot of a senior couple using a cellphone together while hiking out in the mountains | Photo d'un couple âgé utilisant un téléphone portable ensemble lors d'une randonnée dans les montagnes
Rear View Of Active Senior Couple Looking Out Over Gate As They Walk Along Coastal Path In Fall | Vue arrière d'un couple senior actif regardant par-dessus la porte alors qu'ils marchent le long du sentier côtier à l'automne

8. Psychosis

  • What is psychosis?
  • Types of psychosis
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • Causes of psychosis in older adults
  • MHFA for psychosis
  • Crisis first aid for a psychotic episode

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