The following definitions are written to assist in understanding the terms used in this procedure within an educational context.
Mental health promotion and illness prevention
Strategies and actions taken early with a goal to prevent mental health difficulties from developing. Preventative actions can be taken for a whole school population.
Identifying signs of a mental health difficulty and providing support and/or implementing strategies with the aim to preventing any problems from worsening.
Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (WHO, 2014).
Mental health difficulties
Students who have mental health difficulties, including diagnosed mental illness, generally demonstrate behavioural and/or emotional responses at a level of frequency, duration and intensity so different from appropriate age, cultural or ethnic norms that they adversely affect the student's educational performance and participation in school life.
The onset of mental health difficulties is not easy to predict, but these students generally present with a behavioural and/or emotional response that is:
- more than a temporary, expected response to stressful events in the environment, and
- frequent or severe enough to have an impact on the classroom learning environment, or the student's personal or social adjustment, and
- consistently exhibited and unresponsive to support provided through regular classroom strategies or is such that educational interventions alone would be insufficient.
These students may require the support of appropriately qualified school staff, such as the guidance officer, or a clinical care provider. If a student's mental health difficulty is found to be severe by a clinical care provider, they may recommend that the student be admitted to child and adolescent inpatient and/or day facility. They may also require a supported re-entry program and additional educational support on discharge.
Case management involves a collaborative planning process that is essential to the delivery of quality support to students with mental health difficulties. Case managers are appointed to ensure that students with mental health difficulties can access curriculum, achieve learning outcomes and participate in school life. As a general rule case managers should be appropriately qualified staff, such as the guidance officer. Where this is not possible the Principal should consult with their Senior Guidance Officer or regional Mental Health Coach for further advice prior to appointing a case manager.
Clinical care provider
A clinical care provider may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, general practitioner, case manager from a public mental health service, a mental health professional registered under the Medicare Access Scheme, a nurse working in general practice and psychiatry, an allied health professional working in a division of general practice or an Aboriginal community controlled health service.
The referral points for schools to access clinical care providers are general practitioners and Queensland Health clinical care providers. Once appointed, clinical care providers should be included in the Student Plan.
Whilst liaison and consultation with relevant staff, parents or external agencies is essential in the education planning process, it must occur with respect for the confidentiality of the student's personal information.
The Department of Education and Training (DET) is committed to protecting the confidentiality of student information. Section 426 of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) is a confidentiality provision that prohibits unauthorised recording, use and disclosure (including giving access to) of personal information about past, present and prospective students of state schools gained by DET employees, and employees of state schools who have gained access to the information in an official capacity.
Refer to section 426 of the Act for the exceptions to the prohibitions that may be relevant to this procedure.
Educational adjustments are modifications made to curriculum activities, attendance and participation requirements to allow students to achieve optimum educational outcomes.
Educational adjustments for students with mental health difficulties are to be documented in Student Plans.
Consent may be given orally or in writing (preferably in writing). For consent to be valid, it must be fully informed (the person must be given all information necessary to fully understand the possible consequences of the decision) and voluntary (not subject to any threat, coercion, or inducement).
Generally, consent should also be specific and timely, relating to a particular disclosure and reasonably close in time to the purpose for which the consent is given.
The consent must come from the person to whom the information relates. It is not satisfactory that the consent is obtained from another person (such as a parent, husband, wife, or child). The only exception to this rule is in respect of children who are unable to consent, where the consent may also be obtained from a parent.
An individual aged 16 or over is presumed to be capable of giving consent unless found to be incapable of giving that consent by reason of maturity, injury, disease, illness, cognitive or physical impairment, mental disorder, any disability or any other circumstance, of:
- understanding the general nature and effect of giving the consent, or
- communicating such consent or refusal to consent.
Note: 'Gillick' competence
Young people under the age of sixteen years can be competent to provide informed consent without parental permission or knowledge under certain circumstances.
In his judgment in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority and another  1 AC 112 (HL), Lord Scarman stated: "As a matter of Law the parental right to determine whether or not their minor child below the age of sixteen will have medical treatment terminates if and when the child achieves sufficient understanding and intelligence to understand fully what is proposed."
Students with a suspected or confirmed mental health difficulty require relevant information and educational adjustments to be documented in a Student Plan, to enable the student to remain engaged with their education.
Schools should seek guidance from the student's clinical care provider when preparing a Student Plan. Where there is reasonable suspicion that a student has a mental health difficulty but does not have the support of a clinical care provider, a Student Plan can be developed; however the student's parents should be encouraged to seek the advice of a clinical care provider.
Nominated staff member
A member or members of school staff nominated by the principal (e.g. guidance officer, deputy principal, principal etc.) to be the contact person in the school for staff to discuss concerns about an individual student's mental health and wellbeing.
Section 426(4) of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 defines personal information in the context of the confidentiality requirements surrounding student personal information as:
- 'Information or an opinion, whether true or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion.'
Personal information of students may be included in written records, photographs and/or images and information that is not in writing but which is in the possession or control of the department.
Regional Mental Health Coaches
- Mental Health Coaches coordinate the development of local communication networks that support the dissemination of relevant materials and resources and the provision of professional development for teachers, school leaders, guidance officers and other staff.