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Mental health practitioners in secondary and specialist schools

Victorian government secondary and specialist schools are now recruiting mental health practitioners.

Who can apply

Mental health practitioners must be qualified:

  • Occupational Therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Nurses with a mental health specialisation.

Nurses, Occupational Therapists and Psychologists must hold full Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) registration. Social workers must be eligible for Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) membership.

Role of the mental health practitioner

Mental health practitioner roles are school based. Practitioners work flexibly based on the needs of the school.

The role includes:

  • mental health prevention and promotion
  • short term support for students including direct counselling
  • coordinating supports with other services for students with complex needs.

Schools can also use advice and resources in the Schools Mental Health toolkit to support student mental health and wellbeing.

Recruitment

Schools receive funds to employ a mental health practitioner.

Area-based mental health coordinators support schools with practitioner recruitment and induction such as:

  • Guidance on the role of mental health practitioners and the expertise they can bring
  • Supporting schools with recruitment difficulties. For example, schools in rural areas and schools with low enrolment numbers.
  • Coordinating professional development and networking for practitioners.

About the positions

Mental health practitioner positions offer:

  • meaningful work that has a positive impact on student outcomes and their lives
  • job security and flexibility, with part-time options available
  • work life balance, with paid school holidays
  • access to a range of professional development supports.

How to apply

Search for advertised roles and apply through these jobs portals.

Recruitment Online

Careers.Vic

Case studies

  • Find out how mental health practitioners are making a difference to school communities.

  • Occupational therapist delivers extra mental health support to college students

    Teenagers at Eaglehawk Secondary College are feeling more supported and positive thanks to a new addition to the wellbeing team.

    Since occupational therapist Adam Johnson's arrival as mental health practitioner at Eaglehawk Secondary College, he has proven himself to be a valuable addition to the school's Wellbeing team.

    Krys, a Year 9 student, said he's receiving support in an area of his life where he's never had it before.

    I'm positive going into the classroom, I'm positive talking to the teachers, the other students. I always think to myself how lucky I am to have that support in my life,' Krys said.

    Some students at the college struggle with mental health issues, and while there is access to a psychologist and a social worker through the Department of Education and Training's Student Support Services, Adam's experience as an occupational therapist compliments the team.

    Making a difference

    Adam provides an added layer of support when issues arise, posing the right questions to get the team thinking about things they hadn't considered before. He helps triage students, provides case management support to external services and direct counselling to students with mild to moderate mental health needs.

    The college's principal, Danielle Derksen, said the school was now able to provide regular one-to-one counselling to students which was not possible before, and this increase in support had resulted in better attendance rates. Students' interactions and social connections had also improved, Danielle said. Students now feel more supported and positive and are armed with the right tools to manage their school and personal life.

    Equipped for mental wellbeing

    Adam said his toolbox included upskilling teachers on how sensory modulation helped teenagers self-regulate and get in the right mind frame for learning. He also focuses on helpful daily habits and routines.

    Lindsay, a Year 9 student, said the advice helped students cope and 'feel a lot calmer and relaxed.'

    For Adam, having an impact at a key point in a student's life and providing early intervention attracted him to the role, as well as working in a team where everyone is as passionate as he is about 'why they are here every day'.

    And the impact of the help is evident when the students speak about the mental health support at Eaglehawk Secondary College.

    'What wasn't possible… was letting my emotions out. I was never confident in myself, I always put myself down. But now I've got my confidence, I'm happy,' Krys said.

  • Making a difference to student wellbeing

    Lunchtime yoga and one-on-one counseling are creating a peaceful vibe at Newcomb Secondary College.

    Amanda Davis has made an incredible impact at Newcomb Secondary College as the mental health practitioner since she joined the Wellbeing team.

    With complex and challenging wellbeing issues in the community, Assistant Principal, James Murphy describes Amanda's contribution as 'multi-tiered and multi-faceted'.

    Amanda works two days per week at Newcomb and three as a Student Support Services Social Worker for the Department. This enables her to draw on her experience and learnings from other schools, which has proven to be extremely beneficial at Newcomb.

    Implementing a whole-school approach

    While the role requires Amanda to work in a variety of areas, Linda Gawith, the Department's Mental Health Coordinator in the Barwon area, says there is a focus on the whole-school approach working across health promotion, prevention and early intervention.

    The school environment is one where Amanda feels she can really make a difference, addressing barriers students may experience that affect their education.

    'I think when people are open to support and seek help it's something that I really value — being able to build relationships with students to support their wellbeing,' Linda said.

    Student Wellbeing Coordinator Chiara Ercoli says the school can now offer things they previously didn't have access to, or time to achieve, before Amanda's employment, like the Peaceful Kids Program and their lunchtime yoga, as well as one-to-one counselling.

    As some students have complex mental health needs, Amanda is able to refer them to a range of external services to fulfill their individual needs.

    Improving cultural connection for Indigenous students

    Assistant Principal James Murphy has also seen positive effects from Amanda's contribution to the Wellbeing team, particularly within the Indigenous community.

    'Through Amanda's contribution our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have really felt a heightened sense of connection to their cultural heritage and Amanda's work in that space has enabled them to build a really strong and vibrant sub-community within our school,' James said.

    Amanda's expertise means she can also support teachers, providing them with capability-building opportunities to assist student learning and wellbeing.

    And she feels privileged to work in a team of staff who share her passion for student wellbeing support and its result — seeing students 'work towards their goals and reach their potential.'

    That is what inspires her to continue.

  • Students taking control of mental wellbeing

    Emotional regulation learning helps reduce mental health struggles at school.

    With a large student population presenting with a variety of mental health needs, Parkdale Secondary College has benefited immensely from the addition of psychologist, Priya Dhairyawan, as the mental health practitioner in the Health and Wellbeing team.

    In prior roles, Priya often found herself with clients presenting at ‘crisis point’. However, being in a school environment means she can regularly work and interact with the Parkdale students one-on-one or in small groups, giving her the opportunity to focus on ‘preventative work’.

    June Sainsbury, Assistant Principal, said Priya has been able to help staff explicitly teach students about emotional regulation, enabling them to have some control over their own mental health.

    ‘That in turn lets them manage their mental health, and at the end of the day, helps to reduce the number of mental health presentations we’re having at the school,’ June said.

    Mental wellness a collective responsibility

    Priya’s clinical background and knowledge of external services has also had a huge impact on the staff and the Wellbeing team, with a flow on effect to students and their families.

    Jake Phin, Student Wellbeing Coordinator, said having someone like Priya on board enables further support and training for staff.

    ‘At the end of the day it’s that collective responsibility at the college to support students and their wellbeing needs,’ Jake said.

    Priya said she gains a lot from the teachers who have unique insights due to being the first point of contact for students.

    ‘What a great opportunity and potential there is to actually intervene at schools.’ Priya said.

    Students talk out negative feelings

    Year 9 student Kai said having someone to talk to reduces a lot of negative feelings.

    ‘Just having that person there to talk about it all, it definitely helps you identify what you’re thinking or going through,’ Kai said.

    And as well as guiding him through whatever issues he’s facing, Kai said Priya also provides education on external resources such as meditation app Headspace.

    Having Priya as part of the Wellbeing team also means the college can implement programs they didn’t have the resources for previously.

    Priya gives the school the ability to promote good mental health across whole year levels, while being instrumental in supporting the rollout of initiatives such as Respectful Relationships.

    Priya has made a positive impact to the mental health support at Parkdale Secondary College.

  • Establishing a safe space for students

    Breaking the stigma of mental health struggles creates a harmonious school community .

    There are many benefits to having Tania Pyle as the mental health practitioner at Whittlesea Secondary College. The most notable is an extra level of wellbeing support in the school that has helped break the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

    School Captain Harmony said the support has helped students feel like they are not alone.

    'I think we've definitely become more of a community,' Harmony said.

    The students at Whittlesea present with a variety of mental health needs. However, having access to one-to-one support, group work and mental health promotion across the whole school has helped build a stronger community.

    Ben Omizzolo, Assistant Principal, said Tania's professional background as a nurse meant she brought extra skills to the wellbeing team.

    'Having that professional background means she has been able to positively influence our students, as well as supporting our team when dealing with these students,' Ben said.

    Bringing specialised experience to the school

    Tania's experience as a nurse with a specialisation in mental health means she's able to help with early identification and intervention.

    Because she still works one day per week in the acute mental health sector, she brings that knowledge and experience to the school setting. This knowledge is particularly helpful for teachers, building their capability to help them identify mental health issues within their students.

    Tania is also invested in a collaborative approach to raising awareness of mental health with students and their families.

    The whole school approach now means students and their families know exactly where to go, no matter how individualised their needs are.

    When complex cases arise, Tania serves as an additional layer of support to staff so they're confident they're utilising resources and coordinating referrals for students in the best way possible.

    Young people have got amazing stories to tell, and I think it's really important for them to be able to be heard and have that voice,' Tania said.

    And she has certainly provided a safe space for the students of Whittlesea Secondary College, including Vice-Captain Will, for whom 'having someone just to talk to and rely on' has had a positive effect.

Reviewed 13 September 2022

Education

More information

Department of Education and Training

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