Mental health practitioners in secondary schools

Every Victorian Government secondary school campus will have a suitably qualified mental health practitioner by the end of 2021.

Allocation of mental health practitioners is based on student enrolments, with each campus receiving 0.5 FTE on average. The initiative started in Term 3, 2019, and is currently rolled out to more than 200 secondary school campuses across the state.

Role of the mental health practitioner

Under the initiative, mental health practitioners include:

  • Mental Health Nurses
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers.

Mental health practitioners work flexibly, based on the needs and priorities of their school and students.

The role of their mental health practitioner includes:

  • provision of direct counselling support to students and other early intervention services
  • coordination of supports for students with more complex needs
  • contributing to whole-school approaches to health prevention and promotion

Schools can also access a new mental health online toolkit, with a suite of resources, guidance and advice tailored for the new mental health practitioners and other school-based health and wellbeing staff.

Department areas implementing the initiative

The areas currently implementing the initiative are:

  • Barwon
  • Bayside Peninsula
  • Loddon Campaspe
  • North Eastern Melbourne
  • Outer Gippsland
  • Hume Moreland
  • Central Highlands
  • Western Melbourne
  • Southern Melbourne

Future rollout of the initiative

To manage coordination and workforce considerations, the rollout of the initiative is staged over three years. By the end of 2021, every Victorian Government secondary school campus will have a mental health practitioner appointed.

Future rollout considerations are based on workforce supply, demand for mental health and wellbeing services, and the requirements of each school.

The timeline of rollout for remaining Areas is:

  • Term 1 2021: Outer Eastern Melbourne
  • Term 2 2021: Ovens Murray and Mallee
  • Term 3 2021: Inner Gippsland and Inner Eastern Melbourne
  • Term 4 2021: Goulburn, Wimmera South West, Brimbank Melton

Recruitment of practitioners

Schools will receive advice on the roles and qualifications required by the new mental health practitioners. Dedicated Mental Health Coordinators in each Area will also support schools in the recruitment processes.

Advice will include:

  • guidance about the role of the mental health practitioner and the expertise that each mental health practitioner discipline area can bring to school communities
  • working flexibility where schools already employ health and wellbeing staff with different areas of expertise
  • supporting schools that are finding it hard to recruit practitioners. For example, schools located in rural and regional areas and schools with low enrolment numbers.

Mental health supports in specialist schools

On 7 August 2020, the Victorian Government announced the Mental health supports in specialist schools initiative to expand mental health and wellbeing support in specialist schools.

From Term 1, 2021 every Victorian government specialist school with secondary enrolments will receive funding to employ a suitably qualified mental health professional within their school.

This two-year, fixed term funding will fund an additional 83 Victorian schools across the state to employ a mental health practitioner.

Integration with existing health and wellbeing support

Mental health practitioners will complement schools' existing health and wellbeing teams.

They will work to the needs and priorities of the school, including direct student support and other early intervention services, coordinating support for students with complex needs, and contributing to whole-school approaches to mental health promotion and prevention.

Working with student support services

The new positions will be based in schools, supplementing the support provided to schools by Student Support Services (SSS) staff. The SSS workforce will continue to support schools according to their service priorities.

As a member of the school's broader health and wellbeing team, mental health practitioners will liaise with SSS staff to address student mental health needs at a whole school level and for individual students, in line with the Health Wellbeing and Inclusion Workforce Practice Model.

Working with headspace

Dedicated counselling services for secondary school students have been established within headspace centres. This support will continue to be available to support secondary school students presenting with mental health needs such as anxiety or depression, to improve their mental health and assist in finding them the right support.

Mental health practitioners will facilitate referrals to headspace services and other community based supports as appropriate, and help school-level planning to support student mental health needs.

Additional information about the mental health in schools initiative
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Mental Health Toolkit

The Department has developed an online toolkit to provide schools and school-based health and wellbeing teams with guidance on evidence-based best practice and interventions to support students' mental health.

The Mental Health Toolkit covers:

The Department has partnered with Orygen Youth Health to develop more resources and practice guidance for Mental Health Practitioners.

More information

Schools will be provided with further information about the Mental Health Practitioners initiative as implementation progresses. If you have any queries, please contact the team at