School of Population Health

Public Health Aspects of Mental Health (PHCM9761)

image - Public Health Aspects of Mental Health


This course provides participants with an overview of public health knowledge and approaches in mental health. The overall aim of the course is to equip students with the knowledge to understand and interpret key epidemiological data; the interaction between mental health and social, physical and environmental determinants of health; public health interventions such as preventive healthcare and mental health promotion; and the importance of lived experience. Students will have the opportunity to discuss and explore key issues, develop their critical thinking, and draw on their own experiences and those of their peers to understand the practical application of these concepts. This course is enriched by the partnership between the School of Population Health and the Black Dog Institute.

Who should do this course

We welcome students from any discipline and level of experience to contribute their perspectives and understandings and we encourage you to engage with the material, ask questions, discuss relevant issues with your teachers and colleagues, and regard the available literature with a critical eye.

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
  • Discuss the interaction between mental health and social, cultural and environmental determinants of health
  • Identify at-risk populations and discuss primary, secondary and tertiary approaches to the prevention and management of poor mental health
  • Critically evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of management strategies to promote mental wellbeing, including mental health services and policies
  • Critically analyse a mental health problem in a target population and develop a feasible response to promote mental health
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. 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 external students and to optimise learning opportunities within this environment.

Our approach to learning and teaching is based on adult learning principles.  When you are introduced to new material it is expected that as postgraduate students you will be able to integrate prior knowledge, draw on your own experience and formulate new understandings at a theoretical and practical level.  It is expected that you will engage actively with the course material, carefully reflect on the lectures and tutorials, and have meaningful discussions with your online peers to help build your knowledge and appreciation of the diverse contexts in public health principles are applied.

Teaching strategies

This course is designed for students studying in internal and external mode. TThis course is designed for students studying in internal and external mode. This year, due to COVID-19, all students will be learning in an online manner. There is a total of ten modules this term. 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. The assessment tasks for this course have a practical focus and are scaffolded to provide opportunities to consolidate the skills required to complete the final assignment. These assessments will assist you to identify the characteristics of a target population and to promote critical thinking regarding mental health interventions and devising feasible responses.


Assessment Task 1 - Characterising a population at risk of poor mental health
Weighting: 15%
Length: 700 words

Assessment Task 2 - Annotated bibliography – mental health interventions evidence check
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2000 words

Assessment Task 3 - Critical reflection
Weighting: 25%
Length: 1000 words

Assessment Task 4 - Participation in online discussion forums
Weighting: 30%
Length: 500 wrods per forum x 2 forums

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  • Lectures, including podcasts
  • Weekly readings and content
  • The Moodle (online learning) component