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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA)

Public Health & Prevention: Community-based
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated August 2019.
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Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) is a universal prevention program designed to provide adults with information about how to assist youth exhibiting signs of a mental health or substance use disorder or who are in a mental health-related crisis. The target population for YMHFA is adults who regularly interact with youth. Group training courses focus on knowledge and skill development aimed at the identification of symptoms, reducing stigmatizing attitudes, and increasing confidence in providing help using a Mental Health First Aid Action Plan. Training is offered through schools and in community settings. This analysis includes evaluations of the full two-day training (14 hours) and modified one-day training (7 hours). Adults in the included evaluations received a weighted average of 9.16 hours of YMHFA training.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $106 Benefits minus costs $283
Participants $65 Benefit to cost ratio $10.97
Others $113 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $27 benefits greater than the costs 68%
Total benefits $311
Net program cost ($28)
Benefits minus cost $283

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
14 1 982 -0.031 0.051 14 -0.017 0.031 17 -0.081 0.240
14 1 982 -0.021 0.051 14 -0.021 0.051 16 -0.055 0.274
14 1 159 -0.089 0.116 15 n/a n/a n/a -0.235 0.159
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Externalizing behavior symptoms Criminal justice system $9 $0 $23 $5 $37
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $23 $54 $29 $0 $106
K-12 special education $16 $0 $0 $8 $25
Health care associated with externalizing behavior symptoms $61 $17 $62 $30 $170
Costs of higher education ($4) ($6) ($2) ($2) ($13)
Internalizing symptoms K-12 grade repetition $1 $0 $0 $0 $1
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($14) ($14)
Totals $106 $65 $113 $27 $311
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $25 2018 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($28)
Comparison costs $0 2018 Cost range (+ or -) 50%
We estimate the cost for YMHFA to reflect the per-youth cost of treatment effects reported in Jorm et al. 2010. This estimate aligns program costs to treatment effects utilized in WSIPP’s benefit-cost analysis. Per-youth cost is calculated as the number of adults who received YMHFA training, multiplied by the per-adult training cost, divided by the number of youth. The per-adult training cost reflects an average training cost of $107.50, plus a $20 cost per YMHFA manual, reported by the National Council for Behavioral Health (
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Morgan, A.J., Fischer, J.A., Hart, L.M., Kelly, C.M., Kitchener, B.A., Reavley, N.J., . . . Jorm, A.F. (2019). Does mental health first aid training improve the mental health of aid recipients? The training for parents of teenagers randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 19(99).

Jorm, A.F., Kitchener, B.A., Sawyer, M.G., Scales, H., & Cvetkovski, S. (2010). Mental health first aid training for high school teachers: A cluster randomized trial. BMC Psychiatry, 10(51).