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School mental health service

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

We are piloting the service in select schools from term 3, 2022. 

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.

Practitioners working in this service may have a background in psychology, social work, occupational therapy, nursing or similar. They may provide a range of services, including:

  • one-on-one assessment of student concerns and delivering strategies and supports to manage immediate distress (such as 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.

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 is an additional service. It does not replace or duplicate any of the services that are available now.

Role of external health providers

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, the school mental health service will help with deciding on 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 student mental health service will not resolve this issue, our trained practitioners can reduce the burden on external services resulting from unsuitable referrals. Early intervention may prevent the need for a more intensive service for some students.

About the pilot

We are piloting the service in select schools from term 3, 2022.

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.

Following the pilot we will further refine the service, ready to make it available to more areas throughout 2023. We are aiming to employ around 55 school mental health practitioners, including senior professionals to provide supervision and support to these staff.

Why we need this service

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

An audit found that most of our investment in student mental health and wellbeing so far has been focused on:

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

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

Following a feasibility study carried out by Ernst and Young (EY), which evaluated a range of options to address this gap, we decided to roll out the mental health service 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 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 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.

Engagement and Wellbeing

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