School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Public Health Aspects of Mental Health (PHCM9761)

image - Public Health Aspects of Mental Health


This course provides participants with an overview of public health approaches in mental health. The overall aim of the course is to equip students with the knowledge to understand and interpret key epidemiological data, healthcare systems for people with a mental illness, the interaction between mental health and social and physical health factors, mental health across the lifespan, public health interventions such as preventive healthcare and mental health promotion, and mental health policies. Students will have the opportunity to discuss and explore controversial issues and will draw on their own experiences and those of their peers to understand the practical application of these concepts.

Who should do this course

We welcome students from any discipline and level of experience to contribute their perspectives and understandings in this course. This course will be of interest to people working across a range of clinical disciplines and/or with a role in developing health policy or interventions to promote mental health and wellbeing.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

The aim of this course is to provide you with a broad introduction to the contribution of public health approaches to the fields of mental health and wellbeing and help you to develop a methodical approach towards critically analysing and utilising material relevant to the development of mental health services and policies.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the diagnosis and epidemiology of mental illness, including the measurement of incidence, prevalence and burden
  • Access and interpret data from large, population-based surveys of mental health
  • Discuss the interaction between mental health and social determinants of health, such as poverty
  • Discuss at-risk groups, recognise their public mental health needs and strategies for management
  • Distinguish between primary, secondary and tertiary approaches to the prevention of mental illness
  • Demonstrate an understanding of health promotion approaches to mental health and wellbeing
  • Investigate the formation, implementation and evaluation of mental health policies
  • Critically evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of mental health services and policies
  • Identify and understand changes in mental health and wellbeing across the lifespan, including resilience
  • Critically analyse a mental health problem in a target population and develop a feasible response
Learning and teaching rationale

Class participants come from diverse backgrounds, with varied forms of professional training and experience. Participants come from Australia and a number of other countries, with some students studying on an internal basis whilst others are external. The design of the course aims to ensure that each student is able to use the material practically and apply this in a real-world context. Wherever possible, every effort has been made to cater to the different learning experiences of internal and external students and to optimise learning opportunities within these environments.

Teaching strategies

There are a total of eleven modules this semester. The modules address different public health aspects of mental health. These applied topics will build upon and consolidate your knowledge from core courses and will complement your learning in other elective courses.


Assessment Task 1 - Learning journal entries
Weighting: 40% (4 x 10%)
Length: 500-600 words per entry (entries)

Assessment Task 2 - Description of at-risk population
Weighting: 15%
Length: 500 words

Assessment Task 3 - Analysis and response to a mental health problem
Weighting: 45%
Length: 2,500 words


Brown J.S., Learmonth A.M. & Mackereth C.J. Promoting public mental health and wellbeing: Principles into practice. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015.