Imperial College London

What is Mental Health First Aid?


This week, 14-20 May, is Mental Health Awareness Week – an annual opportunity to help educate and increase awareness about mental health.

While it will always be preferable to support students and staff to try to maintain good mental health, many of us will from time-to-time need to seek extra help. That’s where the College’s ever-growing network of Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders) is the first line of support.

MHFAiders are trained to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and can potentially help stop a crisis from happening. They can do this by recognising warning signs, and they have the skills and confidence to approach and support someone experiencing mental ill-health.

Key information

  • You can recognise MHFAiders by their bright green College lanyards
  • Conversations with MHFAiders are always confidential
  • All MHFAiders have received professional training through Mental Health First Aid England
  • There are more than 280 MHFAiders based across Imperial’s campuses
  • You can contact any one of them – find a full list of MHFAs on the College website (login required)
  • MHFAiders are available to listen and to help, whenever you need them
"The promotion of good mental health and a health work-life balance is no longer seen as an optional extra, but a matter of key strategic importance for the College." Professor James Stirling Imperial Provost

MHFAiders aren’t therapists and the aim isn’t to diagnose or treat people, but where appropriate, to encourage and support you to access professional help, as well as signpost you to the right place. This could include self-help books or websites, guiding you to access therapy services through your GP or employer, or via online self-referral, support groups, and more.

Sally Campbell, Safety Compliance Manager in the Faculty of Medicine and one of the College’s in-house MHFA instructors, said:

"The most rewarding thing about being a Mental Health First Aider is having the confidence to know what to say and to be able to help someone – it’s a great feeling and it doesn’t really take that much to make a difference. It’s lovely to hear someone tell you that you have really helped them.”

  • MHFA
  • MHFA
  • MHFA

MHFAs also play an important role in supporting positive wellbeing and tackling stigma. Sally added: “Most people will suffer ill-physical-health at some point in their lives, and would think nothing of going to see a doctor about an infection or injured limb. Mental health is no different and we need to keep encouraging everyone to seek support in exactly the same way.”

Imperial recognises the huge importance of supporting its community in this and aims to have one MHFAider for every 100 members of the College by 2020. That’s around double the current number.

Key strategic importance

Imperial’s Provost, Professor James Stirling said “The promotion of good mental health and a health work-life balance is no longer seen as an optional extra, but a matter of key strategic importance for the College.”

“Mental Heath First Aid is a crucial part of that and I’d encourage everyone in our community to familiarise themselves with the support and training that’s available.”

Find our more about Mental Health First Aid on the College website.


Mr Al McCartney

Mr Al McCartney
Faculty of Medicine Centre

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