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School Mental Health Service

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The new School Mental Health Service provides mental health practitioners based in schools to support young people with mild to moderate and emerging mental health concerns.

Following a recent pilot the School Mental Health Service is now being rolled out more broadly in 2023.

Register your interest to join the School Mental Health Service

Recruitment to the new service is happening progressively throughout 2023. Qualified practitioners can apply now for roles currently open for applications or register their interest to join the service and be alerted when applications open. See join the new School Mental Health Service.

Role of school mental health practitioners

School mental health practitioners will be based in schools to provide an early intervention mental health service. They will not provide clinical diagnosis or treatment.

The service is designed to support young people who may be experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems and intervene early in the development of more serious mental health concerns.

Practitioners working in this service have a background in psychology, social work or occupational therapy. The services they provide may include:

  • assessing student mental health needs and concerns
  • supporting students to develop strategies to manage distress and maintain their mental health
  • contributing to referral and case management processes for students with more complex mental health presentations
  • supporting referrals and linking to external support services as required
  • developing the mental health literacy of their school communities.

Practitioners will work collaboratively with students and families, education staff, other support service providers and external agencies to support young people to improve their psychological health and emotional wellbeing.

Service locations

The service will be available at up to 65 high schools, area schools and reception to year 12 schools, with a focus on schools with the highest need.

Schools will receive a School Mental Health Service practitioner either full time or part time, based on the number of students enrolled at the school.

How the service works with other mental health service providers

The School Mental Health Service is designed to complement – not duplicate – the range of existing mental health and wellbeing services already available in schools.

Practitioners will also work closely with external health providers to make sure students get access to treatment and support for complex and significant mental health issues.

Role of student wellbeing leaders and other support staff

Schools will continue to have Student Wellbeing Leaders, Student Support Services and other health and wellbeing roles as part of the whole-of-school support structure.

The School Mental Health Service (SMHS) is an additional service. It does not replace or duplicate any of the services that are available now.

Role of external health providers

Treatment and support of complex and significant mental health issues will continue to be the responsibility of, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), general practitioners and other health providers. However, the school mental health service will assist in assessing  the urgency of treatment (triaging) and referring students into external services.

We are aware that there can be wait lists and funding challenges for students who need diagnosis and intensive clinical treatment. While the SMHS will not resolve this issue, our trained practitioners can reduce the demand on external services resulting from unsuitable referrals. Early intervention may prevent the need for a more intensive service for some students.

About the pilot

The pilot is currently in 9 schools. It started in term 4, 2022 and is continuing in term 1, 2023.

The pilot schools are located in 3 metropolitan cluster areas and 3 regional cluster areas:

  • Western Adelaide – Ocean View College and Le Fevre High School
  • Southern Adelaide – Seaford Secondary College and local primary schools
  • Northern Adelaide – Para Hills High School and Parafield Gardens High School
  • Lower Mid-North – Balaklava High School and Clare High School
  • Upper Mid-North – John Pirie Secondary College and local primary schools
  • South East – Penola High School and local primary schools.

Why we need this service

More and more school students are experiencing mental health concerns that are having an effect on their learning.

A 2020 audit found that most of our investment in student mental health and wellbeing has focused on:

  • the general wellbeing of all students
  • students with complex mental health concerns.

This highlights a gap in responses to students with mild to moderate and developing mental health concerns.

Following a feasibility study carried out in 2021, which evaluated a range of options to address this gap, this new mental health service is being rolled out in schools.

Other wellbeing supports available in schools

We currently offer a range of programs and initiatives to support student mental health and wellbeing. Schools deliver curriculum and other programs that promote positive student mental health and wellbeing.

Student wellbeing leaders work in all schools to coordinate wellbeing supports to encourage student learning. Their role includes providing advice and support to students, parents, educators and the broader community. Student wellbeing leaders can assist  with a range of issues including attendance, behaviour and learning and helping students and families to manage issues.

Student Support Services will continue to work with children and young people who have particular support needs, including physical, behavioural or wellbeing issues that impact on student learning.

School Mental Health Service

Email: education.smhscentral@sa.gov.au