MHFA or I-act – what’s better and good value for money?

That’s a question I’ve been asked many times.  My answer is always the same.  Both are excellent tools in their respective areas.  To decide which one best meets your needs consider what your goal is.  If you don’t do this you could end up wasting valuable resources.

The global pandemic has highlighted the mental wellbeing and resilience levels of us all. The spotlight is now on growing positive mental health, wellbeing and resilience to ensure we all flourish going forward.

With the pathway to the planned June 21st lifting of all restrictions in England, astute employers are considering how best to empower their staff with the right tools to look after themselves and ensure a positive workplace.

I’ve delivered both MHFA and i-act courses.  Below are the key highlights of each for me.

MHFA – an excellent tool for a deeper dive into mental ill health conditions, legislation, how to start a conversation, investigating the risk of suicide etc.  The manual accompanying the MHFA Adult First Aider course is double the thickness of the i-act manual and accordingly robust in the detail it contains.   Devised in Australia around 2000 by Betty Kitchener and Professor Anthony Jorm to be a first aid programme for mental ill health, it is now in over 25 countries. Instructors can only deliver in the country they trained in.   Three courses for adults include the full first aider 2 day course, 1 day champion course and half day awareness course.  MHFAEngland also has bespoke courses for those working with the Armed Forces community and young people.  All completing delegates receive a certificate of attendance.  Core components of the First Aider course are:

Why the need for Mental Health First Aid – action plan, what is mental health? impact of mental health issue, stigma and discrimination

What is depression – signs/symptoms, first aid for depression and suicidal crisis, self-care

Anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm

Psychosis, recovery and mental health action planning

i-act – wellbeing, resilience and positive mental health tool written specifically for the workplace.  The manual contains over 50 tools to support self-care.  These can easily be used when supporting someone else to evidence their mood and wellbeing. Evidence based, courses carry CPD points for onward formal learning and delegates receive a certificate accredited by Royal College of Psychiatrists.  

Post completion, delegates can access news, tools, templates from i-act’s website. Its unique design means Instructors can deliver the programme internationally regardless of where they are based.  I-act delivers specialist mental health and well-being training to executives, senior and line managers as well as a general awareness course for employees/front-line workers.  

The first part of i-act covers core areas of generic mental health programmes in an inclusive, easy to understand manner.  

These include chapters on:

Mental Health Wellbeing and Resilience

Understanding Low Mood and Depression

Understanding Stress, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

Understanding Psychosis

Understanding Personality Disorders and Dissociative Disorders

Issues which may affect someone’s Mental Health and Wellbeing

Other signs of distress

Before concentrating on its unique pillars:

I – Improve Wellbeing

A –Advocate & Access Further Help & Support

C – Connect & Communicate with People

T – Take Tools & Advice

E – Evaluate & Monitor Any Interventions

D – Development Tools and Skills


Both products can be delivered virtually or classroom based.

If your goal is to give a deep understanding of mental ill-health issues or want a mental health equivalent of your physical first aiders, MHFA would be a great tool to consider. I feel the robustness of the manual also gives a solid foundation for those interested in the field of mental health possibly considering a career as a therapist/counsellor.

However, if you are looking for easy to use tools any employee can use to build resilience and a mentally healthy workplace with an easy to use colour co-ordinated manual, i-act would be the product I would recommend.

As with anything, know your goal first to make the right choice.  This will ensure you spend your limited resources well and attain your desired goal. 

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