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

Knowledge and understanding resources

Core Principles

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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. 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:


  • 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
  • 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.
  • Mental Health First Aid (2013). Retrieved from
  • Core Competencies and Measurement Criteria for Beginning Clinicians in Specialist Mental Health Services for Older People (SMHSOP). Retrieved from NSW Health:


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