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 and is responsible for continuing the work of two former APS mental health and suicide prevention initiatives:
- the APS Mental Health Capability Project, and
- the APS Suicide Prevention Project.
The Unit will:
- monitor and respond to key mental health and suicide prevention sector developments and initiatives that impact on the APS workforce
- promote involvement from cross-agency leadership and input of APS staff with lived experience, carers, and people with diverse backgrounds
- promote national and international public sector collaboration and knowledge exchange
- participate in collaborative engagement networks to promote whole-of-government participation and alignment, and
- support 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.
The Unit does not provide clinical advice on specific staffing matters.
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, whilst 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 on-board and align their practices to the framework. For more information on the framework or to request on-boarding support please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
The Unit is developing a bespoke whole-of-service approach to building suicide prevention capability through the Compassionate Foundations Training Suite. Compassionate Foundations is a skills-led learning approach for the APS that is compassion-based, skills-focused and sustainable. Like the APS Mental Health Capability Suite, the approach acknowledges the strong interdependency of organisational enablers, staff knowledge and staff skills in supporting changes in suicide prevention practice and therefore building a suicide-aware organisational culture.
Compassionate Foundations is comprised of five highly scalable core e-learning modules, incorporating short Learning Bites on foundational topics that are associated with suicide prevention. The suite is being designed to complement agencies existing, and longer-form, suicide prevention capability initiatives. The modules include:
- Module 1 - The role of Australian public servants 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
For more information on Compassionate Foundations 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.
APS eXchange Program
The Unit will be producing regular opportunities to highlight best practice in mental health and suicide prevention initiatives across the APS through the APS eXchange Program.
Articles, newsletters and in-services will be promoted every few months and will focus on a team or agency from across the APS who are undertaking innovative or better practice in the field of mental health and suicide prevention. It is expected that this program will support the APS to reduce unnecessary duplication of effort and improve consistency of practice.
For more information on the APS eXchange Program please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
The Unit is developing 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 staff working in remote or isolated environments, who have exposure to objectionable material and/or have been involved in emotionally challenging situations.
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 (capability suite) is a skills-led learning approach that supports agencies to develop staff capability in mental health and wellbeing. Like the Compassionate Foundations Training Suite, the capability suite acknowledges the strong interdependency of organisational enablers, staff knowledge and staff skills required to support staff to respond adaptively to role-based psychosocial challenges. By taking a Learning Bites approach to capability development, these skills can be deployed quickly across an organisation and are able to augment longer-form capability development in relation to mental health and wellbeing.
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 all 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.