Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

A knowledge of mental illness and the values and skills for practice is considered essential for social work practice across a wide range of health and welfare settings (ASWEAS 2012), and this unit provides foundational knowledge for practice in these diverse areas. The unit provides students with foundational knowledge of mental health practice, in the context of consumer rights, multidisciplinary teams, and Social Work practice models. The aim of the unit is to provide students with the opportunity to explore and critically analyse Social Work practice in the area of mental health.

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 - Analyse the role of social movements in mental health for promoting consumer rights (GA1, GA4)

LO2 - Differentiate the roles and responsibilities of social workers in mental health practice (GA5, GA9)

LO3 - Interpret and apply research skills to explore the evidence base for social work assessment and to develop appropriate evidence based intervention plans (GA1,GA4, GA5, GA6);

LO4 - Relate selected theories to the development of policies, programs and services in mental health practice (GA5);

LO5 - Analyse ethical issues and reflect critically on ethical dilemmas in mental health practice (GA3).

LO6 - Apply relevant assessment and intervention skills for mental health in professional practice with individuals, families, groups and communities (GA5);

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

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


On successful completion of this unit, students should have developed their ability to:

GA1 - Demonstrate sense of identity as a professional social worker

GA2 - Demonstrate sound understanding of and commitment to social work values and ethics to guide professional practice

GA3 - Apply social work knowledge and interventions to respond effectively in meeting the needs of individuals, groups and communities in diverse settings, client groups and geographic locations

GA4 - Apply knowledge of human behaviour and society, as well as the social, cultural, political, legal, economic and global contexts of practice to respond effectively within a human rights and social justice framework

GA5 - Review, critically analyse and synthesise knowledge and values and a reflective thinking skills to inform professional judgement and practice

GA6 - Apply research knowledge and skills to understand, evaluate and use research to inform practice and to develop, execute and disseminate research informed by practice.

GA7 - Demonstrate effective communication and interpersonal skills

GA8 - Work with diversity and demonstrate respect for cultural difference

AASW Practice Standards 

This Unit has been mapped to the ACU Graduate Attributes, AASW Graduate Attributes and the AASW Practice Standards.  The following table sets out the broad relationship between the Learning Outcomes, Graduate Attributes and the AASW Practice Standards.

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

1.1 Practice in accordance with the Code of Ethics (2010). 

2.2 Behave in a professional manner and be accountable for all actions and decisions. 

4.1 Understand higher level systemic influences on people with respect to an area of practice. 


3.1 Work respectfully and inclusively with cultural difference and diversity. 

3.2 Respect, strive to understand and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their cultures. 

5.3 Use a range of social work methods and techniques appropriate to area of practice.


4.1 Understand higher level systemic influences on people with respect to an area of practice. 

4.4 Understand and articulate how and when theories, knowledge bases and knowledge sources inform practice 


4.1 Understand higher level systemic influences on people with respect to an area of practice. 

5.3 Use a range of social work methods and techniques appropriate to area of practice. 


4.4 Understand and articulate how and when theories, knowledge bases and knowledge sources inform practice. 

5.3 Use a range of social work methods and techniques appropriate to area of practice.


1.1 Practice in accordance with the Code of Ethics (2010). 

1.2 Manage ethical dilemmas and issues arising in practice. 



Topics will include:

Understandings of mental health

  • conceptions of mental health
  • prevalence of mental illness
  • national and state mental health policy
  • critical analysis of current policies

Diagnosis (DSM5 ICD-10), diagnostic systems and treatment modalities

  • schizophrenia
  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • bipolar disorder
  • personality disorders
  • eating disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder

The experience of mental health problems 

  • stigma
  • powerlessness
  • marginality and disadvantage

Influences on mental health problems

  • age
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • socioeconomic status
  • geographical location

Mental health practice issues in specific populations

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • migrants and refugees

Contemporary approaches to mental health care

  • recovery
  • working in partnership with consumers and families
  • early intervention
  • relapse prevention
  • rehabilitation

Social work with people with mental health problems

  • evidence based practice
  • prevention and early intervention
  • recovery and relapse
  • consumer rights and perspectives 

Skills and values in assessment

  • social work assessment
  • assessing risk
  • reflection on personal and professional values
  • ethical dilemmas in practice

Social work interventions

  • recovery-focused mental health intervention
  • crisis intervention
  • suicide prevention
  • family work
  • CBT

Service provision

  • multidisciplinary teams 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Lectures will Tutorials will incorporate small group, collaborative learning focused on Social Work practice in mental health. Case-based learning will be utilised enabling students to better understand and explore 

This unit involves 150 hours of learning with a combination of face-to-face lectures and interactive face to face tutorials. Lectures will provide students with foundational knowledge about mental health and illness and explore contemporary approaches to Social Work practice in mental health. Tutorials will provide students with opportunities to practice Social Work practice skills through case studies and role play. 


Assessment strategy and rationale

The unit has one hurdle task and three assessable tasks, designed to test different learning outcomes for the unit. There is a focus on engaging with the research literature, and applying knowledge in practice situations. 

The hurdle task is is a student presentation to be delivered in classtime, on a topic chosen by the student. This allows students a wide range of choice and a capacity to share ideas and knowledge from the broader mental health research literature.  In the past some students have chosen to focus on their own “lived experience”, or chosen a topic because of its relevance to themselves or family member.

The first assessment task asks students to outline social work approaches to contemporary mental health practice in Australia. This task is designed as a formative assessment, providing early feedback on student’s understanding of relevant mental health concepts. 

The second assessment task asks students to demonstrate their capacity to gather and organise information into a standardized assessment framework.  This tests their skills in observation, analysis, and professional writing.  Students are then required to connect their assessment with theoretical concepts in mental health, particularly recovery theory.

The third assessment piece is a centrally conducted examination.  The exam is in two parts with Part A covering basic content knowledge, and Part B covering the application of content and concepts to two case studies.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Brief Individual presentation: Opportunity to explore a specific area of mental health and develop presentation skills.

Hurdle Task 

LO1, LO2, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA9

Written Task: Articulation of social work approaches to mental health practice.


LO1,LO2, LO3, LO6

GA1, GA6, GA9

Case study analysis: Identify and develop the key social work skills necessary for conducting social work mental health assessments and interventions with individuals and families.


LO1,LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA9

Examination: To assess students’ knowledge of core mental health concepts and ability to apply to case studies.  


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA9

Representative texts and references

Austrian, S. (2005). Mental disorders, Medications and Clinical Social Work (3rd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Bland, R., Renouf, N., Tullgren, A. (2015), Social work practice in mental health. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Dudgeon,P.,Milroy,M. & Walker,R. (eds) (2014), Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice (2nd ed), Australian Government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.  

Gilbert, P. (2010), Social Work and Mental Health – the value of everything (2nd ed), Russell House, UK.

Golightley, M. (2011), Social Work and Mental Health (4th ed), Learning Matters, UK.


Gould, N. (2009), Mental Health Social Work in Context. University of Bath, UK. 

Karban, K. (2011), Social Work and Mental Health, Polity, UK

Meadows, G., Farhall,J., Fossey,E., Grigg, M., McDermott, F., & Singh, B. (Eds.) (2012) Mental Health in Australia: Collaborative community practice (3rd ed.), South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Chapter 1.

Proctor, N., Hamer, H., McGarry,D., Wilson, R. & Froggatt, T. (2014), Mental Health – A Person Centred Approach, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Rogers,A. & Pilgrim, D.(2010), A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness (4th ed), Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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