APS Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit
On 1 June 2021, the Australian Public Service (APS) Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit (the Unit) was established within the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission). The Unit promotes whole-of-service development of APS workforce literacy, capability and expertise in mental health and suicide prevention.
- monitors and responds to key mental health and suicide prevention sector developments and initiatives that impact on the APS workforce
- promotes involvement from cross-agency leadership and input of APS staff with lived experience, carers, and people with diverse backgrounds
- promotes national and international public sector collaboration and knowledge exchange
- participates in collaborative engagement networks to promote whole-of-government participation and alignment, and
- supports the implementation of the APS Mental Health Capability Framework across the wider APS.
The Unit is an internal support for the APS and provides advice at an agency level, including expert advice into underlying governance structures that support the development of mental health capability.
APS Mental Health Capability Framework
The APS Mental Health Capability Framework provides a bespoke and systems-based approach to building mental health and suicide prevention capability within the APS. It acts as an overarching architecture for agencies to use as a base from which to build mental health capability, while remaining flexible and adaptable to agency-specific needs.
The framework is underpinned by six evidence-informed domains, including:
- Domain 1: Prevent Harm
- Domain 2: Promote Mental Health
- Domain 3: Support Recovery Pathways
- Domain 4: Build Literacy and Develop Capability
- Domain 5: Leadership and Governance, and
- Domain 6: Evaluate and Improve.
The Unit is providing practical implementation support and coaching to APS agencies as they align their practices to the framework. For more information on the framework or to request implementation support please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
In response to recommendations outlined by the National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister, the Unit has developed a bespoke whole-of-service approach to building suicide prevention capability through the Compassionate Foundations training suite. Comprised of six highly scalable core eLearning modules, Compassionate Foundations is a skills-led learning approach for the APS that is compassion-based, sustainable and focused on building positive human-to-human interactions that promote understanding and connection.
The approach emphasises that building suicide prevention capability within the APS will require staff to have an understanding of a range of concepts and theories, including concepts not traditionally associated with suicide prevention, such as trauma-informed engagement, compassion and connectedness, and supporting people in early distress. These concepts support staff to build capability in identifying people in distress, improve staff understanding of the impact of trauma on service engagement and to support our staff to respond to people in supportive ways, before a crisis occurs. The suite is designed to complement agency's longer-form suicide prevention capability initiatives.
The modules include:
- Module 1: Your role in suicide prevention
- Module 2: Supporting people in vulnerable situations
- Module 3: Compassion and connection
- Module 4: Identifying and supporting people in early distress
- Module 5: Understanding suicidal distress
- Module 6: Looking after yourself
Compassionate Foundations is available to all Australian Public Servants via APSLearn. The Unit is working closely with agencies across the APS to roll out the suite to their workforces.
Compassionate Foundations received the Gold LearnX Award for Best eLearning Project – Widespread eLearning adopter at the 2022 LearnX Summit and Awards Show. This award focuses on an eLearning project that’s been implemented enterprise-wide to train and support talent development.
For more information on Compassionate Foundations please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
Connections Core capabilities for workplace peer supporters
Peer support networks serve an important role within APS culture. They create and harness valuable opportunities for connection, conversation and coming together. In the APS, peer supporters may include mental health first aid officers, and Indigenous, disability or other type of liaison or contact officer roles, such as mental health champions and bullying, harassment and/or discrimination officers.
From early 2023, APS staff in formal peer supporter roles will be able to enrol in Connections: Core capabilities for workplace peer supporters via APSLearn.
This interactive and engaging eLearning program has been co-developed by psychologists, peer supporters and human resources practitioners. The key focus areas are the interpersonal and wellbeing aspects of peer support.
The modules include:
- Introduction: Welcome
- Module 1: The power of human connection
- Module 2: Creating safe and supportive spaces
- Module 3: Finding the strong story
- Module 4: Self-growth and continuous learning
The Unit is working closely with agencies across the APS to roll out the program to their peer supporter networks.
Read more about Connections.
For more information on Connections please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
Academic in Residence
The Unit is launching an Academic in Residence lecture series to promote expert-led dialogue between academics and APS corporate and policy staff. Inspired by the Don Dunstan Foundation’s ‘Thinkers in Residence’ program and the Victorian Government’s ‘Leading Thinkers’ initiative, the program seeks to support the development of mental health and suicide prevention capability and encourage new ways of thinking about, and resolving, complex workforce psychosocial challenges. The program further seeks to mature and/or establish relationships between the APS and national and international academia and foster collaborative opportunities for academics to have the applications of their research/hypotheses discussed in real world environments.
For more information on Academic in Residence please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
The Unit has developed a range of Practice Guides to provide agencies with evidence-informed guidance on contemporary approaches to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff. This includes guidance to support agencies to develop and implement workplace peer support programs, to respond to suicide and self-harm in the workplace and to support staff who have exposure to objectionable material and/or have been involved in emotionally challenging situations.
The Unit will continue to develop guides based on emerging developments and APS needs.
For more information on the Practice Guides please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
APS Mental Health Capability Suite
The APS Mental Health Capability Suite promotes a three-factor model to assist agencies to consider their mental health and suicide prevention capability in a holistic way. This includes supporting staff to respond to psychosocial challenges by developing individual resilience, as well as developing collective workforce resilience through investing in relational micro-skills, mental health knowledge and literacy. The model breaks down capability investments across three interdependent factors: organisational enablers, staff knowledge/literacy and staff cognitive/emotional/relational capacity. It proposes that it is investment in each of these factors, in combination, that provides the platform to build agency mental health and suicide prevention capability and investment in staff resilience. Agencies will be introduced to the model as they begin aligning their practices to the APS Mental Health Capability Framework.
For more information on the capability suite please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
Internal consultancy and advice
The Unit is highly consultative and will work closely with APS agencies to assist them in developing mental health and suicide prevention capability. APS agencies can contact the Unit for further and expert advice/guidance on corporate policy, procedure and implementation resources related to mental health and suicide prevention.
For more information please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.