This unit explores the social, political and cultural issues related to health and mental health/wellbeing in Australian communities and internationally. What is meant by health and mental health will be explored within the social construction of knowledge. Particular attention will be given to health and mental health policies, practices and research findings and their impact on health equity and access to services for differently placed individuals and communities.

In accordance with the Australian Association of Social Workers accreditation standards, this unit provides skills and knowledge that can assist entry-level social workers in situations involving issues of mental health and illness.
The approach in this unit is specific and practical, providing knowledge about health and mental health policies, services and treatment. It is also analytical, exploring socially constructed notions of health and ill-health. In the tradition of critical practice, this unit recognises the layers of oppression often present for people in contact with health and mental health services, and provides a basis for recognising and responding to these factors.

Unit details

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288 credit points (First, Second and Third years) of core ABSW Bachelor of Social Work.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Analyse health and mental health issues from a variety of perspectives including practitioners, service-users and consumer advocates, locally, nationally and internationally;  
  2. Investigate the ways in which historical developments have shaped the delivery of health and mental health services, treatment and policy options;  
  3. Demonstrate a clear understanding of what is meant by good health and mental wellbeing and how these definitions are socially constructed by social, cultural, economic and political imperatives;  
  4. Inquire into structural factors including gender, age, class, religion, ethnicity, culture and (dis)ability in the health and mental wellbeing of all peoples;  
  5. Critically review the roles and responsibilities of government and non-government agencies in relation to the provision of health and mental health services and resources across the community sector; and  
  6. Critically evaluate a range of policies and practices that influence the health and mental health agenda, especially their impact on equity and access issues.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Presentation Analysis and critique of recommended readings (1000 words) 25%
Test Quiz (2 hours, 2000 words) 35%
Essay Analysis of Mental Health Practice (2000 words) 40%

Required reading

Social work practice in mental health: an introduction, 2nd ed.
Bland, R. & Tullgren, A., (2015)
Crows Nest NSW: Allen & Unwin.

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