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Approaches to mental health

Qualification dates
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Over the past century there has been a radical shift in responses to people who experience mental health problems. In this module you will learn about how politics and concepts about mental health and professionalism have driven contemporary approaches to these issues. By directly relating theory to case studies and examples, you will reflect upon how the services that are offered shape the lives and experiences of individuals supported by a range of practitioners in statutory organisations, the third sector and beyond. ​You will also critique the role of psychiatry and other professional groups, and consider how diagnosis shapes mental health practice and the benefits and limitations of current responses.

What you will study

This is a module that will allow you to explore and reflect upon a range of areas associated with mental health care and support. During the module you will explore the core principles of mental health practice and examine the nature of mental health treatment, both traditional and non-traditional, in the United Kingdom and internationally.

This module is made up of four blocks of study, each of which is made up of five weeks of teaching. During each block you'll focus on a particular area associated with mental health care:

  • Block 1 - topics include the core principles of mental health intervention; values and ethics in mainstream mental health practice; mental health diagnosis; and the political influences on care.
  • Block 2 - looks at traditional approaches to mental health, examining the contributions of different professional groups and the voluntary sector and you'll examine how we can assess the success of these ways of working.
  • Block 3 -  the focus is on mental health support in specific situations. You'll look at the needs of individuals transitioning between childhood or youth to adult services and those with complex care needs before examining the sensitive topics of suicide, self-harm, trauma and abuse.
  • Block 4 - explores a range of alternatives to traditional mental health care such as those driven by service users and those that take advantage of technological advances. Throughout the module the focus will be on the experience of care and support from a service user’s perspective.

In preparation for studying you will be provided with core learning materials, including texts, audio visual material that highlights particular issues, and journal articles that you will be able to access directly from the library.

The module team believe that students learn best when they are provided with opportunities to make links between theory and real life practice. As a result, across the module, the teaching material will encourage you to reflect upon case studies and practice examples that are relevant to the topic you are considering. You'll also undertake a range of specifically designed activities that will encourage you to communicate with your fellow students and the teaching staff about how structural, theoretical and behavioural influences shape mental health practice.

During the final week of each block of study you'll be provided with opportunities to shift the focus of your study towards those areas that you are most interested in learning more about. During this week you will be encouraged and supported to explore resources that are available through the library website, the Internet and those shared by fellow students.

At the end of this module you will have a range of the skills and tools that will help you become independent explorers of knowledge in this important but complex area.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU. You are not required to have done any study before in this subject area but if you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

This module is entirely delivered through online through learning guides. These will comprise of text, graphics, quizzes (for self-assessment) and a range of media resources.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout this module you will be supported by a personal tutor. This support can take a variety of forms and include the use of several mediums. To ensure you are supported in a way that meets your needs, at the outset of the module you will be asked to consider whether you are best supported through one-to-one telephone contact, email or text communication. You will be strongly encouraged to engage in group support with your fellow students through forums and tutor hosted learning events. You will also be provided with written feedback on your TMA submissions.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying K314 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Approaches to mental health (K314) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that starts in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment