Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


Foundation Year Units or equivalent

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Mental health and illness has emerged as a major issue in the Australian health landscape. Mental illness contributes a significantly to the burden of disease and the increasing cost of the provision of health care. Paramedics thus need to understand the pathology of mental illness and be equipped to manage the patient with mental health issues in a person-centred approach. Paramedics must also be conversant with associated pharmacology and administer specific pharmacological agents to achieve improved outcomes.

This unit develops students' knowledge of the physical, mental and biopsychosocial factors that contribute to personal, individual, family and community mental health. It also examines the role of the health professional in caring for persons who have alterations to their emotional and mental wellbeing across the lifespan. In particular, it will enable students to develop a holistic and consumer-oriented focussed approach to the provision of care highlighting the therapeutic use of self, and ethical, legal and professional boundaries that influence practice. Students will be provided with the opportunity to demonstrate broad and coherent theoretical and technical knowledge and skills in caring for persons with mental illness. Students will also explore the role of the paramedic in delivering person-centred, culturally-sensitive and globally informed health care in the setting on mental illness.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Outline social, developmental and cultural factors that impact on mental health and wellness; (GA3, 4) 

LO2 - Describe and evaluate major mental health priorities and related strategies, including models of mental health care; (GA4) 

LO3 - Reflect critically on the experiences of mental illness from consumer and carer perspectives; (GA4)

LO4 - Assess a person’s mental health status within the contexts of a holistic health assessment and potential underlying pathology; (GA4, 9) 

LO5 - Determine appropriate evidence-based interventions and describe medical and allied health interventions for the promotion of mental health, and prevention, early intervention, management of and recovery from common mental illnesses; (GA3, 7) 

LO6 - Plan, implement and evaluate safe, holistic, person-centred care taking into account of a person’s/family’s mental health status, strengths, risks and resilience; (GA4) 

LO7 - Examine legal and ethical issues pertaining to mental health and mental illness and apply strategies for developing and evaluating therapeutic relationships with mental health consumers, carers and significant others. (GA9) 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

CAA Competency Standards: 

The Council of Ambulance Authorities Paramedic Professional Competency Standards developed in this unit are: 

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

1. a.1 Practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession

2, 4, 5, 7

1.a.2 Practise in a non-discriminatory manner

1, 3, 7 

1.a.8 Practise as an autonomous professional, exercising their own professional judgement 

2, 3, 4, 5 

1.b.1 Work effectively in interprofessional practice

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 

1.b.2 Collaborate effectively in interprofessional practice 

2, 3, 4, 5, 6

1.b.3 Communicate effectively in interprofessional practice using effective and appropriate skills to provide information, advice, instruction and professional opinion to colleagues, patients, their relatives and carers

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

1.b.4 Function as an advocate for patients, advocate groups and their rights relating to health care 

1, 2, 3, 7


Topics will include: 

  • Factors impacting on mental health and wellness 
  • Social  
  • Developmental  
  • Cultural, including Australia’s Indigenous population 


Family risk factors 

  • Domestic violence 
  • Sexual abuse 
  • Emotional and physical neglect 


Mental health priorities  

  • National and international mental health priorities and strategies 
  • State mental health priorities and strategies including Suicide Prevention 
  • Mental health workforce priorities 
  • Vulnerable populations 
  • refugees 
  • culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) 
  • homeless 
  • forensic 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 
  • elderly 
  • Models of mental health care and care continuum  
  • Medical model 
  • Psychodynamic approach 
  • Developmental models of self 
  • Resilience and recovery model 
  • Therapeutic interventions 
  • Roles of the interdisciplinary mental health care team  


Experiences of people with mental illness  

  • Discrimination issues, stereotyping and perpetuation of stigma 
  • Factors influencing attitudes 
  • Affirmative action 
  • Social inclusion 


Mental health consumer and carer participation in care and recovery  

  • Consumer’ and carers’ perspectives on mental illness 
  • Consumer choice, informed consent and participation in care 
  • Spiritual care; sense of wellbeing 


Prevention and early intervention   

  • Risk and preventative factors across the lifespan 
  • Risk factors for self-harm 
  • Preventive model of care 


Mental health promotion  

  • Myths of mental illness 
  • Developing self-awareness 
  • Public and professional education 


Establishing therapeutic relationships with mental health consumers and carers   

  • Self-help, peer support and consumer delivered services 
  • Collaboration with consumers, their families and community 


Mental health assessment  

  • Factors affecting assessment  
  • Taking a psychosocial history  
  • Mental state assessment 
  • Assessment tools 
  • The Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS) instrument 
  • Functional assessment 
  • Mental Health Outcomes Assessment Tool (MH-OAT) 
  • Alcohol scales 
  • Depression scales 
  • Common mental health alterations and disorders and related pathophysiology  
  • Developmental disabilities 
  • Disorders in children and adolescents 
  • Disorders affecting the elderly 
  • Schizophrenic disorders 
  • Mood disorders 
  • Personality disorders 
  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Substance-related disorders and dual diagnosis 
  • Somatoform and dissociative disorders 


Psychopharmacology for common mental illnesses/disorders  

  • Psychopharmacology 
  • Principles of pharmacological action of psychotropic medication 
  • Legal issues with psychotropic medications 
  • Major groups of psychotropic drugs 
  • Medication adherence issues and strategies 


Legal, professional and ethical issues  

  • Rights of the mentally ill 
  • Mental health policy 
  • Mental health legislation 
  • Professional boundaries 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is delivered to practising paramedics who generally work rotating shifts. Thus, the unit is delivered fully online to allow the flexibility required by students who may not be able to attend on campus or in synchronous mode. As students are currently paramedic practitioners, a teaching and learning strategy which places them at the centre by drawing upon their own experiences best meets the learning needs of this cohort. This unit requires students to undertake 150 hours of focused learning to achieve the unit learning outcomes.  


Flexible asynchronous online learner-centred lessons are used to support student learning. Students are able to co-construct knowledge using online discussions. Case study methodology is utilized within this unit to further draw upon student experience and to apply knowledge in context.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Assessments are sequenced and timed to support progress from assessment of lower level learning outcomes to higher as the semester progresses. Assessments are weighted accordingly. 


The discussion portfolio enables students to discuss, explore and articulate their thoughts and opinions to demonstrate their depth of knowledge to mental health and illness. The case study enables students to apply values, knowledge, skills and attitudes in the area of mental health and illness. The written assignment provides the opportunity for students to consolidate knowledge developed throughout the unit and to think critically and reflectively through enquiry-based learning. These assessments are required to engage students with content that will build knowledge which, by the conclusion of this programme, will allow the student to graduate as a health care professional who can locate and critically appraise discipline specific literature.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Discussion portfolio (1000 words)


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA7, GA9 

Case study (1000 words) 


LO4, LO5, LO6 

GA3, GA4, GA7, GA9

Major assignment (2000 words) 


LO5, LO6, LO7 

GA3, GA4, GA7, GA9

Representative texts and references

Bear, M., Connors, B., & Paradiso, M. (2016). Neuroscience : Exploring the brain (4th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer. 


Caltabiano, M., Byrne, D., & Sarafino, E. (2008). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions. An Australian perspective (2nd Australasian edition). Brisbane: Wiley. 


Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (2008). Life: Living is for everyone. Research and evidence in suicide prevention. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. 



Eckermann, A-K., Dowd, T., Chong, E., Nixon, L., Gray, R., & Johnson, S. (2010). Binan goonj: Bridging cultures in Aboriginal health (3rd ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier. 


Jones, K., & Creedy, D. (2012). Health and human behaviour (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press. 


Meadows, G., Singh, B., Grigg, M. (2012). Mental health in Australia. Collaborative community practice (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.  


Melchert, T. (2015). Biopsychosocial Practice: A Science-Based Framework for Behavioral Health Care. Washington: American Psychological Association. 


O'Toole, G. (2016). Communication: Core interpersonal skills for health professionals (3rd ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier. 


Pink, B., & Allbon, P. (2008). The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ABS Catalogue No. 4704.0. AIHW Catalogue No. IHW 21. Belconnen, ACT: Australian Bureau of Statistics. 


Porth, C., & Gaspard, K. (2015). Essentials of pathophysiology: Concepts of altered health states (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer. 


Sarafino, E., & Smith, T. (2014). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons.  


Usher, K., Foster, K., & Bullock, S. (2009). Psychopharmacology for health professionals. Chatswood, N.S.W.: Elsevier Australia. 

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