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. 

Doing things differently – Carpe Diem!

When life throws you a curve ball, you can either crumple or run with it.  With the lockdown continuing and people’s strange new life continuing it seemed apt to change person-to-person training to virtual where possible.


A little sceptical of how good it could be, I was astonished how well received my first course was.  An informal discussion on coping with lockdown, the new challenges faced, new skills learned.  Working with 16 team members at all levels of management from ISS in London, the conversation, ideas and laughter flowed.  So what was the outcome?  You can see some of their feedback below – and they’ve booked more courses kicking off with the key steps to starting a conversation, managing it if dark thoughts emerge and self care – critical to building resilience

‘Jane is a first class facilitator, she makes each session impactful and enjoyable which is a really difficult balance to achieve, I would wholeheartedly recommend.’ Andy Ingham, National Operations Manager – This is great feedback for me as Andy was the client and is a facilitator himself.

‘Good, not too formal, interactive and encouraged all team to participate throughout.’ Alison

‘I got a lot from the session just by listening.’ Leon

‘Jane was very open, calm and keep the session flowing easily.  Jane felt like one of our team.’ Loraine

‘The information given on the session was perfect and it gave me the knowledge to look for signs and how to deal with difficult conversations especially where personal circumstances are concerned.’ Mark


So, if you are presented with an opportunity to do something different – don’t overthink it.  Definitely don’t let self-doubt in.  Tell yourself it will be a great experience and you will learn more about yourself doing it.  What’s the worse that can happen?


Courses coming up include:


  • It’s Not About The Nail – don’t try to fix what you think is the obvious
  • Create Your role in The Future
  • Creating Empowerment In Your Teams
  • Personal Empowerment


From June, the licensed global Mental Health First Aid full Adult course can be run online following MHFAEngland’s intensive collaboration with global partners to develop the new virtual programme.


As a Crisis Volunteer with Shout for the past year, I’ve seen how dealing with crisis via text messaging has literally saved lives.  Who would have thought texting could have such a positive impact?  Nancy Lublin the founder of Crisis Text Line in USA helped set-up Give us a Shout in the UK.  Along with HRH Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, Nancy spoke about why she started the text line.



Using text instead of phone lines enables people to gather their thoughts and reflect on what they are ‘writing’ in their texts.  They can also reflect back later on the empathetic responses from the crisis volunteer.  What Nancy discovered was those in fear of their lives from others could get help without being heard using a phone.  There are now crisis text lines springing up in more countries.  Mobile carriers waive the costs of texting to Shout in the UK so it’s accessible to all.  If you are in trouble – text Shout to 85258.


As an Associate Tutor with British Safety Council, many of their  courses including Start the Conversation, Management the Conversation, Train the Facilitator could be delivered online – something they are looking into.


We all need to think of how to do things differently.  This could be a fantastic opportunity.  We just need to not let doubt in.


Carpe Diem – Seize the day!





Happy Reese!

I’ve had a decade plus link to MHFAEngland from it’s early begins of just a handful of staff to the present day.  Gillian, MHFAEngland’s Business Manager and I go back way before this time to the days of the Real Apprentice (an employment programme I ran from 2004-2013).


Back in 2015 Gillian and the team at MHFAEngland selected Reese to join them on Growing Talent ( with the potential of an end permanent job in administration with them.


Reese had minimal employment experience at the time and pretty low self-belief so it was a really scary time for him.  He flourished and secured the permanent job and has been there since.  It felt good knowing he was processing the certificates of following Growing Talent Associates who completed the MHFA Adult 2 day course as part of their Growing Talent journey.


Yesterday, Gillian and I met up for a long overdue catch-up and she told me she had something from Reese – the feature photo.  So great to see him looking happy and confident – four years on.


Anyone can change where they are in life through self-belief, determination and support.