First aid for mental health problems

Is there someone around you whose mental health is suffering? And no experts or helpers are currently available? You can provide valuable support in this situation.

08.06.2023 Tanja Kühnle 2 minutes

Is someone I know suffering mentally?

How do I recognise if someone I know is having mental health problems? This is often a challenge for non-professionals. In the video, ensa instructor Nicole Celakovsky explains some possible signs that can indicate mental strain.

How you can help

ensa is the Swiss version of the Australian programme “Mental Health First Aid”. The word ensa comes from one of the more than three hundred languages of the Australian aborigines and means “answer”. The ensa mental health first aid method is split into five steps. You can use the abbreviation ROGER to guide you. In the video, Nicole Celakovsky goes through the individual steps.

R – reacting: talk to the person, assess them, help them

The most important thing is just the fact that you react. Choose the right time and way to approach the person. If possible, choose a place to talk to the person where you both feel comfortable. Treat everything you hear as confidential.

O – open and impartial communication

This second step involves gaining an understanding of the affected person’s situation. People in mentally stressful situations want to be listened to with empathy before looking for solutions. Do exactly that. Be aware of your body language and avoid making judgemental comments – neither about the person nor their situation. This will make it easier for the person to talk openly about any problems.

G – give support and information

Engage with the person. Give them hope that their situation will improve. And offer your support if the person is currently overwhelmed with certain tasks.

E – encourage the person to seek professional help

Tell the person you’re talking to about the professional help they can get. It could be that they don’t know what options are available:

  • Medical help
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychological counselling
  • Contact with other sufferers who have recovered and have reflected on their experience in a training course
  • Support options for problems at school, in training or in working life
  • Services for relatives of those affected
  • Financial support

If the person does not want to take up professional help, ask them why. And encourage the person to do something to improve their situation.

R – reactivate resources

Encourage the person to ask other people for help, such as family members, friends or people they know. Self-help strategies are also helpful. These can be learnt from reading literature, for example. 

Take a first-aid course

This sounds easy in theory but people sometimes just lack the confidence to do it themselves in an emergency: a mental health first aid course teaches you how to recognise different mental illnesses. You then practise what you have learned in role plays, among other things. By learning about mental health, you are empowering yourself, if nothing else.

The Swiss Red Cross (SRC) offers various “ensa first aid courses for mental health” that focus on adults, adolescents or specifically on suicidal thoughts. The word ensa comes from one of the more than three hundred languages of the Australian aborigines and means “answer”.

See courses offered by the SRC (in German)

Helsana contributes to first aid courses

As a partner of the Swiss Red Cross (SRC), Helsana is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible can perform first aid at any time. This includes when somebody needs first aid due to mental health problems. For customers who have COMPLETA supplementary outpatient insurance, Helsana covers 75% or a maximum of CHF 200 per calendar year of the cost of selected courses run by the SRC.


All the benefits of TOP and SANA – in some cases with higher reimbursements.

Look after yourself

Anyone who has given first aid sometimes needs support themselves to deal with what they have experienced. So talk to someone about this, if it makes you feel better. Be careful, however, not to disclose names or other details that could lead to the person’s identity being revealed. Relaxation exercises, sports or an excursion somewhere can also help you to feel good again.

Benefit by taking preventive measures

Helsana+ rewards a healthy lifestyle and you taking care of yourself. Collect valuable Plus points via the bonus programme. You will benefit from cash payments of more than CHF 300 each year and other attractive discounts.

Read more

How to recognise mental illness
Psychological problems throw life out of balance. Typical symptoms include depression, anxiety, addiction or odd behaviour.
August 22, 2023 2 minutes

Help for depression
Who treats depression? Which therapies and medications are used? Here’s how to deal with it.
July 1, 2022 4 minutes


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