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New mental health service for schools

The Department for Education is implementing a new mental health service for students, which will provide mental health practitioners based in schools.

The new service will be piloted in select schools from term 3, 2022. 

Role of mental health practitioners

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

Mental health practitioners may provide a range of services, including:

  • assessment of student concerns and delivering strategies and supports to manage immediate distress (eg brief interventions)
  • coordination of referrals to external mental health services for students requiring ongoing therapeutic intervention
  • providing advice and checking in with students with more serious mental health concerns who are returning to school
  • supporting students who are returning to school after mental health treatments
  • developing the mental health literacy of the school communities.

The new service will complement – not duplicate – existing services provided in schools, such as student wellbeing leaders.  

Diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues will continue to be the responsibility of General Practitioners, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and other health providers. However, this new service will help with triaging and referring students into external services.

Recruiting practitioners to the service

Mental health practitioners working in the new service may have a background in psychology, social work, occupational therapy, nursing or similar.

More information about recruitment to these roles will be provided in the coming months.

About the pilot

The new service will be piloted in select schools from term 3, 2022.
The pilot schools include 3 metropolitan cluster areas and 2 regional cluster areas:

  • Le Fevre – Ocean View College and Le Fevre High School
  • River Hub – Seaford Secondary College and local primary schools
  • Hollywood Lakes and Gardens and Montague – Para Hills High School and Parafield Gardens High School
  • Lower Mid-North and Mid-North Clare – Balaklava High School and Clare High School
  • Pirie and Upper Mid-North – John Pirie Secondary College and local primary schools.

Following the pilot, the service will be further refined, ready to scale up to more areas throughout 2023. We are aiming to employ around 55 mental health practitioners, including senior professionals to provide supervision and support to these staff.

Why we need this service

Increasing numbers of school students are experiencing mental health concerns that are impacting on their learning.

A recent audit found that most of the department’s investment in student mental health and wellbeing has been focused on:

  • general wellbeing strategies available to all students
  • support and responses for students with complex mental health concerns.

This means there is a gap in responses to students with mild to moderate and emerging mental health concerns.

Following a feasibility study, the department identified that a new mental health service was needed to address this gap, through the employment of trained mental health practitioners to complement the existing wellbeing work occurring in schools.

Other wellbeing supports available in schools

 The department currently offers 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 support student learning. Their role includes providing advice and support to students, parents, educators and the broader community. Student wellbeing leaders can support with a range of issues including attendance, behaviour and learning and helping students and families to manage issues.

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

Engagement and Wellbeing

Email: education.wellbeing [at] sa.gov.au