The goal of the current study is to evaluate the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in broadening the network of gatekeepers in rural communities.
Extension agents in Mississippi who completed MHFA training were recruited via email to participate in a 22-item, web-based, quantitative and qualitative, six-month follow-up survey that measured demographic characteristics, which MHFA skills agents used post-training, barriers to skill use, and confidence in ability to use those skills (n = 80).
Over 60% of the agents reported using the skills learned from the MHFA training, and nearly 15% of agents reported having an encounter with someone in crisis since completing the MHFA training. Agent participants reported using the skills learned from the training with farmers, 4-H youth, volunteers, and parents, family members, colleagues, and friends. One agent commented that the training, “has been very helpful in speaking with various people and has increased confidence when encountering someone with mental health challenges.”
MHFA trainings appear to increase the confidence and competence of Extension agents as community gatekeepers and may greatly enhance the reach of the mental health network of rural areas by increasing identification and referral of those requiring mental health services.