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Mental health triage[1] is a clinical function conducted at point of entry to health services which aims to assess and categorize the urgency of mental health related problems. The mental health triage service may be located in the Emergency Department, Community Mental Health Services, Call Centre, or co-located with other specialist mental health services such as the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team. Emergency Services such as police and ambulance may also have a co-located mental health triage service. There is considerable variation in the clinical settings in which mental health triage services may be operating, therefore service delivery models vary, however, the essential function is to determine the nature and severity of the mental health problem, determine which service response would best meet the needs of the patient, and how urgently the response is required. A core function of mental health triage is to conduct risk assessment that aims to determine whether the patient is a risk of harming self or others as a result of their mental state, and to assess other risks related to mental illness As with other triage models, the mental health triage clinician must assign a category of urgency to the case, which is recorded using verbal indicators of risk such as 'extreme risk' through to 'low risk' , or by using numerical (urgency= time-to-treatment) categories 1 (immediate) to 5 (2 hours), as per the 5-point Australasian Triage Scale. [2]


  1. Sands, N. (2007). Mental health triage: Caring for the Australian Community. Issues, 80, p35-38.
  2. Sands, N. (2007). An ABC approach to assessing the risk of violence at triage. Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal, 10, 107-109.
  3. Sands, N. (2007). Assessing the risk of suicide at triage. Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal. 10, 161– 163
  4. Sands, N., Mental health triage nursing: An Australian Perspective. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 2004. 11:p 150-155.
  5. Sands, N., (2006). Mental health triage: Toward a model for nursing practice. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental

Health Nursing, 14, 243-249.

  1. Gerdtz, M.F, J. Considine, N. Sands, D. Crellin, W. Pollock and C. Steward. (2007). Triage Education Resource Kit. Canberra. Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging.

Mental Health Triage Education University of Melbourne

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