APS Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit
The Australian Public Service (APS) Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit (the Unit) is a centre of excellence within the Australian Public Service Commission. The Unit works with APS agencies to promote and drive the whole-of-service development of APS workforce literacy, capability and expertise in mental health and suicide prevention.
- supports the implementation of the APS Mental Health Capability Framework across the wider APS
- 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 and living 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 agencies to respond to key legislative and national reform agendas relating to mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.
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.
Please note, APS staff seeking guidance on the mental health and wellbeing supports available to them should speak to their internal agency human resources area.
APS Mental Health Capability Framework
The APS Mental Health Capability Framework (the framework) provides a tailored and systems-based approach to building mental health and suicide prevention capability within the APS. It provides 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 provides the foundation for all programs of work being progressed by the Unit and it is underpinned by six evidence-informed domains, which are:
- 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 framework has been endorsed by the APS Secretaries Board for APS-wide roll-out. To support agencies to align their practices to the framework, the Unit provides practical implementation support to teams with operational responsibility for mental health and wellbeing within agencies, including:
- support for agencies to conduct a Maturity Scale Assessment, which provides a visual articulation of an agency’s investment in mental health and wellbeing against the framework’s domains
- provision of resources designed to uplift agency maturity in relation to mental health and wellbeing
- support for agencies to develop considered approaches to building mental health capability of staff and work areas through the APS Mental Health Capability Suite which considers organisational enablers, staff skills and knowledge and staff emotional, cognitive and relational capacity, and
- coaching and expert advice in relation to agency-developed products and resources.
For more information on the framework or to request implementation support please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
The Unit has authored two evidence-informed eLearning capability suites to build mental health and suicide prevention capability in the APS workforce. Each suite has a wide application base centred on interpersonal and relational skills and knowledge. A skills-led learning approach underpins the training suites, aligned with the learning principles of the APS Learning Quality Framework. The suites are highly scalable and designed to complement an agency’s longer form mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.
Compassionate Foundations is a capability-building training suite that supports staff to build their interpersonal and self-care skills to foster positive human-to-human interactions that promote connection and understanding. The six module eLearning suite will help staff provide early support to people before their experience leads them to become distressed and/or suicidal in the understanding that a simple act of compassion may be the life-raft a person needs to hold on to hope.
The skills within Compassionate Foundations include being compassionate, being aware of trauma-informed principles and the needs of people in vulnerable situations, understanding why people may become distressed and knowing how to have a helpful and safe conversation with someone who may be showing early signs of distress. 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 has been formally and independently accredited against Suicide Prevention Australia's Standards for Quality Improvement. Accreditation against these nationally recognised standards provides assurance of the safety, effectiveness and impact of the Compassionate Foundations suicide prevention suite.
Compassionate Foundations won the Spirit of the Service Award – Learning category at the 2023 Institute of Public Administration ACT annual event. This award recognises initiatives that deliberately engaged with risk to address complex problems.
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 has been implemented enterprise-wide to train and support talent development.
Connections: Core capabilities for workplace peer supporters is a four-module eLearning suite co-developed by psychologists, peer supporters and human resources practitioners. The key focus areas are the interpersonal and wellbeing aspects of workplace peer support. Connections will assist staff to develop or build upon core peer support skills by teaching them how to set up safe spaces that support peers to connect, share their story and feel heard, while also keeping peer supporters safe and well.
Workplace peer supporters in the APS may include peer support officers, Mental Health First Aid officers, First Nations, disability or other types of formal or informal liaison or contact officer roles, such as mental health champions and bullying, harassment and/or discrimination officers. The skills and concepts within Connections may have broader applicability (e.g. case managers, human resources practitioners, general supervisors).
Ngunnawal custodians have provided Ngunnawal language to dually name the program’s modules, in recognition of the traditional lands of where the program was launched. The modules include:
- Introduction: Yumalundi - Welcome
- Module 1: Ningulangu - The power of human connection
- Module 2: Ngarambay - Creating safe and supportive spaces
- Module 3: Dhuni Wanggirali Gulgana - Finding the strong story
- Module 4: Bulu Winanggaay - Self-growth and continuous learning.
Read more about our capability-building training suites:
Launch of Connections peer supporter eLearning, APS Academy.
For more information on the available training suites or to request support to roll out the programs in your agency (including access to implementation and promotional materials) please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
The Unit has developed a range of better practice guidance 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 these guides and how they relate to the broader capability we are building across the APS by supporting alignment to the framework, please contact the Unit via MHSP@apsc.gov.au.
Internal consultancy and advice
The Unit is highly consultative and works closely with APS agencies to assist them in developing their mental health and suicide prevention capability. APS agencies can contact the Unit for tailored 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.