Preparing students for a placement within a mental health care setting
When preparing for a student placement in a mental health setting, the principles of placement planning apply. In the mental health setting, there are several resources that can be provided to students prior to their placement to assist them to understand the mental health practice context, their particular work area or skills required. This facilitates the student’s transition to placement.
You may like to recommend that students use the ‘Add my Reflection’ functions on this page to support their engagement with these topic areas. After working through the content, students can log their thoughts, reflections and questions. These can then be used in your supervisory sessions.
Generic placement resources
- 'Preparing for placement in a specialist mental health setting' (Health Education Training Institute (HETI))
- Mental Health Coordinating Council’s Practice Placements in the Community Managed Mental Health Sector project’s Placement Guide (Appendix 12)
- Mental Health Professional Online Development (MHPOD) This webisite provides an introduction to effective working within the multidisciplinary mental health team, which may assist supervisors to introduce the benefits and considerations of teamwork in mental health practice.
Knowledge and understanding resources
You might consider locating some of your local resources to support student learning and understanding of the frequently used therapies, interventions or management approaches that are utilised in your mental health practice setting. This might include:
- The recovery approach:
- Trauma informed care:
- Trauma informed care for alcohol and other drug practice
- Trauma informed care - Implementation resource centre
- Blue Knot Health professional resources on trauma informed care:
- Orygen: Trauma resources
Supervisors should create a space where students are provided with an opportunity to develop specific skills. This may occur through the exploration of evidence-based materials, or use of practical resources and reflection (for example role playing or discussion of case studies).
Mental Health Professional Development Online
The mental health professional online development (MHPOD) website contains a comprehensive set of evidence-based, open access, eLearning modules for the mental health to broaden student understanding of skill requirements in the mental health field. These can be used as an introduction to the placement, during orientation or throughout the placement as learning tools for student supervision sessions.
Mental Health Act
When working with clients in the mental health setting, students are working with potentially vulnerable persons who may or may not be able to make their own decisions about healthcare, finances or daily activities. It is important that students are aware of the legislation that governs health professionals practicing under these conditions. Mental Health Human Rights Acts are examples of legislative documents that explore human rights and reflect contemporary practice, international, national and state policy directions and broad community expectations.
Mental Health First Aid
Mental health first aid is the assistance provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves (Mental Health First Aid Australia, 2019).
The plan looks like this (image):
Retrieved from: https://mhfa.com.au/about/our-activities/what-we-do-mental-health-first-aid
Mental Health First Aid TM (MHFA) Australia, is an Australian not-for-profit health promotion charity focused on training and research. They provide a series of training courses and practice guidelines to support skill development in mental first aid for different population groups, mental health conditions and settings.
Language guides in mental health care settings
The use of language in mental health settings is important to reduce stigma and discrimination. The following are examples of language guides that could be provided to students prior to their placement to draw their attention to the use of inclusive language:
- Everymind Language and Stigma
- NSW Health: What is appropriate language when speaking with someone living with a mental health condition?
- Mental Health Coordinating Council Recovery oriented language guide
- The Power of Words: Having alcohol and other drug conversations: A practical guide
Ethics in mental health care settings
The MHPOD module ‘Professional Ethics’ provides an overview of the core ethical responsibilities and behaviours of mental health professionals, as part of Australia’s National Mental Health Strategy.
Specific pre-placement training resources (relevant to the practice setting)
You might also consider locating resources that provide an understanding of the context of the mental health care setting in which the student will be undertaking their placement.
Working with people who have a lived experience of substance misuse or addiction
- Insight are specialist providers of no cost alcohol and other drug training, education, clinical resources and practice advice. These resources may be of use to student supervisors for student placements.
- Dovetail Student Placement Toolkit: This toolkit has been developed to support student placements and is relevant for all students or workers who wish to enhance their alcohol and other drug (AOD) knowledge.
- Insight Myths and Misconceptions (00:17:44) is a video that explores the lived experience, stigma and discrimination associated with mental health diagnoses. (Please note, Insight have indicated that this video resource has been designed as an educational resource and is not aimed at general distribution to the public)
Working with children/child safety in a mental health setting
In some mental health settings, children can be involved and are a particularly vulnerable group of consumers. Students need to be familiar with identifying potential for harm to children and the reporting requirements if the situation arises. Resources to support student learning include:
- Queensland Health has an open access, educational resource: Child abuse and neglect education module, Responsibility, recognising and reporting: A resource for the interdisciplinary team, which aims to develop capabilities associated with child abuse and neglect, such as the ability to recognise abuse and reporting requirements
- The Department of Communities has produced a resource on how to complete a child safety assessment.
- Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) is a website that contains comprehensive resources for support and working with parents who have mental health problems
- Emerging minds provides a series of free eLearing modules that explore child mental health, trauma in childhood, domestic violence and engaging with parents and children in a mental health context. Foundational modules, which may be appropriate for students undertaking a placement in a mental health context, include
- Understanding child mental health
- Impact of trauma on the child
- Engaging Parents – an introduction
- Engaging with Children: A foundation
- Family and domestic violence and child-aware practice
- MHPOD eLearning module: “Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and youth MH: conditions and assessments”
Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in a mental health setting
When working with a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, there are specific cultural requirements to consider. Resources to support students’ learning include:
- Beyondblue: Introductory interview recorded with a Social Worker, Josephine Battaglini, who works with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the Northern Territory. She discusses her recommendations for working with people who have depression and anxiety.
- Beyond blue: Beyondblue has a list of tip sheets and guidelines specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, addressing a range of mental health conditions such as depression, panic, drinking problems, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, non-suicidal self-harm, psychosis, traumatic events, problem substance use and problem drinking use
- Australian and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health is a website devoted to the mental health of Australia’s First Peoples. It contains a range of resources such as guidelines, key issues, and online learning modules.
- MHPOD eLearning module: Mental health care for First Peoples
- QCMHL eLearning module: Cultural capability for mental health
- Emerging Minds: Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families and Children Toolkit
- The Queensland Government has compiled a set of Protocols for the Delivery of Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. Communities, health professional roles and service delivery models are described. Tip sheets are available for specific mental health conditions as well as approaches to manage each condition.
Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse People in a mental health setting
Resources that provide an introduction to mental health practice in various cultural groups include:
- Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre - eModule: Cultural Considerations in Mental Health Assessment
- QCMHL eLearning : Couse QC52 Cultural capability for mental health
- MHPOD eLearning module: “Cultural awareness” and “Culturally sensitive practice”
Working with older people in a mental health setting
MHPOD eLearning contains two introductory modules relating to care of older people with mental ill health:
- Mental health for Older Persons: Conditions and assessments
- Mental health for Older Persons: Interventions (approaches to mental care for older people)
Other resources for working with older people in a mental health setting:
- Black Dog institute fact sheets: Depression in Older People
- RANZCP Position statement: Psychiatry services for older people
- Beyond Blue: Older people
- Australian Human Rights Commission: Elder Abuse
- ClinEdAus – Dementia subpage
- Gold Coast Health – Mental Health (YouTube channel)
Risk assessment and safety planning
Students and health professionals need to be able to identify potential risks and respond to these in an appropriate manner. In the mental health setting, students may need to complete a risk assessment. The Health Education Training Institute (HETI) video: Managing Risk in Mental Health Services outlines the importance of risk assessment. This video provides general information regarding risk assessments which then can be applied to the placement context. Other resources, which focus on risk assessment and safety planning, include:
- MHPOD eLearning module: Risk and protective factors - This module aims to assist you to identify the range of factors that place an individual at risk of, or protect against, mental illness (risk and protective factors). It also describes the stress vulnerability model and simulates the use of stress vulnerability model in practice
- MHPOD eLearning module: Risk assessment and management - This module is identifies the range of principles and tools available to support practitioners in the assessment and management of risk
- QCMHL eLearning module: Course QC48 Mental state examination (fee for access)
- QCMHL eLearning module: Course QC54 Foundations of risk assessment and management (fee for access)
Suicide prevention and risk
Resources available on risk assessment and prevention include:
- MHPOD eLearning module: Strategies for Working with People at Risk of Suicide
- Mental Health First Aid: Suicidal thoughts and behaviour
- Conversations matter: Someone thinking about suicide
- National Association of Social Workers Association of Social Work Boards. (2013). Best Practice Standards in Social Work Supervision. Washington DC.
- Pargiter, R. & Coverdale, J. (2007). The Ethical Dimension. In S. Bloch. & B. Singh (Eds.), Foundations of Clinical Psychiatry (2nd ed.) (pp.32-42). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
- Queensland Government. (2016). Mental Health Act (2016). Retrieved from Queensland Health https://www.health.qld.gov.au/clinical-practice/guidelines-procedures/clinical-staff/mental-health/act
- Queensland Health (2021). Occupational Therapy Clinical Education Program Mental health resource index 2021
- Kitchener B. & Jorm, A. (2002). Mental health first aid training for the public: evaluation of effects on knowledge, attitudes and helping behaviour. BMC Psychiatry, 2: 10.https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-2-10
- Mental Health First Aid (2013). Retrieved from https://www.mhfa.com.au/cms/
- Core Competencies and Measurement Criteria for Beginning Clinicians in Specialist Mental Health Services for Older People (SMHSOP). Retrieved from NSW Health: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/resources/Documents/core-competencies-smhsop.pdf