Adult Mental Health, Mental Illness and the Approach to Care in Community Settings

Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnoses

Advanced knowledge of mental health and the treatment of mental disorders is germane to the provision of high-quality primary health care in the community setting. Athabasca University’s Faculty of Health Disciplines offers two non-credit courses to enhance this knowledge.

These courses are designed to be taken according to individual learning need or sequentially:

  1. Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnoses
  2. Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Populations


Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnosesis designed to help you develop your knowledge and approach to:

  • the promotion of mental health;
  • the prevention of mental illness; and,
  • the diagnosis of mental disorders using the DSM-V criteria and sound clinical judgment.

This online course was developed primarily for nurse practitioners in Canada and the U.S. who want to pursue a deeper understanding of how to care for clients with mental health issues. This course may also be of interest and utility to anyone with some basic or formal health care education, including registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychologists and pharmacists. Note that this course does not include care of persons with mental health concerns in an acute care setting.

Cost and registration

The cost of this course is C$200 + GST (non-refundable)

Register online by completing and submitting the Professional Development Registration Form. You will need a valid credit card in order to register.

Time commitment

Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnoses can be started at any time. You have 6 months to complete the course once you register.

It is estimated that you will be able to complete the course in approximately 45 hours.

Course goals

This course builds on basic foundational knowledge of neurodevelopment, physiology, pharmacology, and some familiarity with the approach to care of the adult in the primary care or community setting.

Learning outcomes

This is a non-credit course. Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • identify factors that promote mental health and help prevent mental illness;
  • use diagnostic and screening tools to assess for, and evaluate, mental health and illness; and
  • make a mental health diagnosis, based on the DSM-5 criteria, for common mental disorders.

Course structure

Foundational Concepts: Health Promotion, Illness Prevention and Diagnoses is offered entirely online. Learning is self-paced and accomplished through self-study. Topics are covered sequentially so learning builds continuously and integrates previous content.

The course is divided into units. Learning activities, video footage, audio recordings and reflective exercises are offered at various intervals enhance the self-study process. Each unit contains several short quizzes designed to reinforce critical knowledge. You may take the quizzes as many times as you wish.

Certificate of Completion is awarded when you have completed all of the quizzes and learning activities.

When you have finished the course, you are invited to complete the course evaluation, which will inform future revisions.

Course materials

All learning materials can be accessed through the online course. These include:

  • a study guide; and
  • links to articles, references and websites.

There are no required textbooks for this course. Recommended, but not supplied, is The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (2013). American Psychiatric Association. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Technical requirements

To successfully complete this course, you must have ready access to a computer with reliable Internet access.

Further study

The second course in this series, Advanced Concepts: Medications, Therapies and Special Population, enables you to further your studies in mental health care in the community. This course reviews pharmacotherapeutics for each type of mental disorder based on neurobiological principles and current recommendations. Common psycotherapies are reviewed to assist those making referrals to other health care providers.

Additionally, the course provides a practical overview of specific mental disorders, including pregnancy-related mental disorders, ADD in adults, addictions and dual diagnoses, mental health issues common within prisons or the military, and how to identify mental health emergencies and respond appropriately.

If you have questions, please email