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Preventive Mental Health

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Preventive Mental Health

Do you have a family history of mental health concerns? Maybe your mom struggled with depression, or your dad struggled with alcohol addiction. Are you destined to experience the same struggles?

What can you do to prevent struggles like these from developing in your life?

  • What is preventive mental health?
  • What are some benefits of preventive mental health?
  • What are the different types of preventive mental health?
  • What are some preventive mental health strategies?

Definition of Preventive Mental Health

Mental health encompasses so many aspects of life: our emotions, relationships, development, stress levels, etc. Prevention is the act of intentionally working to stop something before it starts. Construction workers who build houses try to prevent future structural problems by building a solid foundation and using good materials. Doctors try to help patients prevent future health problems through check-ups, screenings, and lifestyle recommendations.

Preventive mental health involves anything and everything we can do to limit or reduce the incidence, prevalence, and reoccurrence of mental disorders. Mental health prevention is both personal and societal. There are things you can do to support your own mental health and the mental health of those close to you. On a larger scale, organizations and governments work to promote mental health in society as a whole.

Incidence refers to how many people are diagnosed with a mental disorder during a specific time period (like a single year). Prevalence is a percentage of how many people have or had a mental disorder during a specific time period, compared to the population as a whole. Reoccurrence indicates all those who were previously diagnosed with a disorder, received treatment, and later sought out treatment again for the same disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the incidence rate for depression among US adults was 21 million cases in 2020. The prevalence rate in 2020 was 8.4 percent of the population across all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. Prevalence rates were higher among females than males, and they were highest in the 18-25 age group compared to other age groups.

Benefits of Preventive Mental Health

Why is trying to prevent mental illness important? Does it really make a difference to focus effort on helping people stay healthy mentally? Yes! There are many benefits to preventive mental health, including benefits to other areas of life like physical health and academics.

Humans are biopsychosocial beings. This means that our biological health impacts our psychological health, our psychological health impacts our social health, and our social health impacts our biological health! Each of these areas impacts the others. Anything we can do to keep ourselves mentally healthy will also increase our biological and social well-being.

Some very practical benefits of preventive mental health are decreased healthcare costs, decreased time spent receiving treatment, improved performance at work or school, less personal pain and suffering, and stronger social support. Psychoeducation about mental disorders can help us more quickly notice concerns in ourselves or others. The earlier someone receives treatment for a mental disorder, the better!

In general, early treatment leads to better long-term outcomes. Anderson et al. (2018) from The University of Western Ontario studied the benefits of an early intervention program for teens and young adults struggling with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. They found that individuals who participated in the program were more quickly able to gain access to a psychiatrist if needed and used the emergency room less the next year! Even though early intervention is different from prevention, the goals are the same: to help people be healthier longer and struggle less in future.

Preventive mental health also benefits your physical health! Mental health leads to decreased risks of strokes, heart disease, and cancer.

One really interesting example of how mental health is related to physical health is the mental disorder schizophrenia. Someone who is diagnosed with schizophrenia is at increased risk of developing endocrine and circulatory diseases. Treating schizophrenia and preventing it from getting worse can actually reduce the person's risk of these physical health problems!

Examples of Different Types of Mental Health Prevention

Professionals have organized mental health prevention into three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.

Primary Prevention

Primary prevention is stopping or preventing mental health problems before they start. Primary prevention is probably what you think of when you hear the word prevention. Usually, primary prevention happens through psychoeducation. Learning about emotional intelligence, practicing healthy emotional expression, and forming supportive relationships are all part of primary prevention.

Mental health awareness programs in schools, and suicide risk prevention programs in the community, are two examples of primary prevention.

Secondary Prevention

Every person has a unique background with different mental health risk factors. Things like a family history of mental health problems, parents who are divorced or separated, growing up in foster care, or experiencing domestic violence or abuse are some possible risk factors. Prevention strategies that help those at higher risk of developing a mental disorder make up level two, or secondary prevention.

LGBTQIA+ support programs, grief and loss groups, single parent support groups, and trauma recovery support are all examples of secondary prevention.

Tertiary Prevention

Remember when we mentioned early treatment for mental disorders? Early treatment strategies and support make up level three: tertiary prevention. This level contains strategies that help those already struggling with a mental disorder. The goal is to support them and help them recover so that the problems don't become worse. Early treatment helps individuals lead healthier lives in future.

Any mental health treatment is an example of tertiary prevention, but some specific examples are relapse prevention programs, community mental healthcare clinics, school counseling programs, and peer-led support groups.

Preventive Mental Health, an infographic displaying the levels of prevention in concentric circles, StudySmarterLevels of Prevention, StudySmarter Original

Preventive Mental Health Strategies

As you can imagine, there are different strategies for each level of prevention. These strategies cover all areas of life: personal, family, community, society, government, and culture.

Level of PreventionStrategies
Primary PreventionPhysical healthcare, access to nutritious food, adequate sleep and exercise, parenting classes, quality of the education system, help meeting basic needs, opportunities to form safe and supportive relationships, psychoeducational programs, reducing stigma, reducing racism and gender-inequity, learning how to effectively deal with stress, mindfulness.
Secondary PreventionTrauma interventions, support for the elderly and disabled, support for healthcare providers, LGBTQIA+ programs, support for victims of crime, improved treatment access for public service professionals (military, police, first-responders, etc.), victims of bullying groups, the juvenile justice system, family therapy, support for children of divorced parents, domestic violence and rape response teams, rehabilitation services, reentry programs, preventive personal therapy, improving social service, and foster care programs.
Tertiary PreventionProper diagnosis and treatment planning, access to treatment for those diagnosed, availability of treatment providers and specialists, individual therapy, group therapy, psychiatric hospitalization, access to medication, research on mental disorders, quality education for treatment providers, peer-led groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, school counseling programs, reducing the risk of developing a co-occurring disorder (another mental health disorder).

Preventive Mental Health, a group of young adults standing in a circle doing a group high-five, StudySmarterSupport, freepik.com

Preventive Mental Health - Key takeaways

  • Preventative mental health involves anything and everything we can do to limit or reduce the incidence, prevalence, and reoccurrence of mental disorders.
  • Humans are biopsychosocial beings; each of these areas impacts both of the others.
  • Psychoeducation about mental disorders can help us more quickly notice concerns in ourselves or others.
  • Professionals have organized mental health prevention into three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.
  • Every person has a unique background with different mental health risk factors.

Frequently Asked Questions about Preventive Mental Health

Mental health prevention is implementing strategies to promote a healthy mind in the absence of a mental disorder.

Eating healthy, exercising, investing in your relationships, and keeping life stress low are ways to prevent mental health illness.

Relapse prevention in mental health includes strategies to help someone recovering from an addiction; mainly to keep them from beginning to use again.

Some prevention strategies for mental illness are eating healthy, getting enough sleep, talking with trusted people about struggles, exercising regularly, maintaining a work-life balance, and minimizing stress.

Prevention is important in mental health because healing from a mental illness is harder than maintaining health.

Final Preventive Mental Health Quiz

Question

What is primary prevention in mental health?

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Primary prevention in mental health is stopping or preventing mental health problems before they start.

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What is an example of primary prevention?

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Teaching and educating about mental health and mental health prevention  

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What is secondary prevention in mental health?


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This prevention is driven toward

those who may be at a higher risk of mental health problems.

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What are some examples of those who may be more susceptible to mental illness?

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Those who were born with certain

health characteristics, those who are part of the LGBT+ community, those who have had life traumas, or those who are more likely to face hate crimes in their life

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What is tertiary prevention in mental health?


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This is helping those who are dealing with

mental health issues already and reducing symptoms. This will help reduce the risk of relapsing by

relying on previously undesired behaviors

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What are some mental health strategies to maintain healthy mental health?


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The easiest and simplest way to maintain positive mental health is to simply talk about your feelings. All

feelings should be spoken about and expression of one's self is the easiest way to take care of one's mental health. Of course, there is also eating well, sleeping well, and getting plenty of movement or exercise in your day.

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True or False: When a person is equipped with the knowledge, it is easiest to see the signs of mental health issues in one's self as well as in our family and friends.

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True

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True or False: Many strategies to deter mental illnesses rely on schools and community interventions practices.


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true 


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True or False: There are no correlations that mental health can or will impact physical health.

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False. 

A specific example is someone who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. With the diagnosing of schizophrenia, there are correlational health risks such as

endocrine disorders and circulatory diseases.

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Question

Preventative measures in mental health are important. One of these factors is seemingly obvious but prevention allows for less suffering and ____ premature mortality. 

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Answer

less

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What strategies are there for those who may be experiencing symptoms of mental health issues or mental illness?

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Reaching out to a mental health professional 

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True or False:  Within our mental health policies, there are also the possibilities of lower treatment costs for potential patients.

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true

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What is resilience? 

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Resilience is the ability to weather, surmount, and go on to flourish after experiencing significant adversity. 

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What is mental resilience? 

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Mental resilience is the ability to adapt well to the many changes and challenges that life presents us with. 

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What is emotional resilience? 

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Emotional resilience is the ability to govern emotions during times of intensity and stress.  

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Positive psychological changes and growth that occur as a result of traumatic events or experiences is called _______________.

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Post-traumatic growth

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True or False: You can not build emotional resilience. 

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False

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Which of the following is not one of the 7 resilience skills.

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Carefree

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What are three ways to build emotional resilience? 

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Fostering connections, maintaining physical health, and getting to know ourselves.

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Emotional intelligence is a quality often associated with people who have a high level of this kind of resilience. 

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Emotional resilience

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Why is resilience important? 

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It can significantly contribute to our overall success in life. 

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True or False: Experiencing trauma can lead us to become more resilient people. 

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True

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The belief that we are equipped with the ability to handle challenging situations is an example of which of the 7 resilience skills? 

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Confidence

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Being part of a group and giving back to one's community is an example of which of the 7 resilience skills?

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Community

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Some qualities of resilient people are __________.

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Resilient people are often optimistic, have a pleasant disposition, and possess a certain measure of social grace.

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Two of the most significant forms of resilience when it comes to our overall wellness and happiness in life are _____________________.

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Mental and emotional resilience

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Understanding that we are in control of our decisions and our reactions to challenging situations is an example of which of the 7 resilience skills?

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Control

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Preventative mental health involves everything we can do to reduce the incidence, prevalence, and reoccurrence of mental disorders?

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True

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Mental health prevention is only personal and is not societal. 

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False

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This term refers to how many people are diagnosed with a mental disorder during a specific time period.

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Answer

Incidence 

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This term refers to the percentage of how many people have or had a mental disorder during a specific time period.

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Answer

Prevalence 

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This term indicates all those who were previously diagnosed with a disorder, received treatment, and later sought out treatment for the same disorder. 

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Recurrence 

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What term refers to humans biological health affecting our psychological health while our psychological health impacts our social health while our social health impacts our biological health?

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Biopsychosocial 

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Resilience is the ability to make it through hard things in life and bounce back from significant adversity.

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True

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Resilient people often display___ a pleasant____, and good____.

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Optimism, disposition, social skills 

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Resilience is important for overall success in life.

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True

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The___ of resilient people helps them make the best of challenging situations. 

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Optimistic perspective 

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What are the two most common types of resilience?

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Mental and emotional

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What is the ability to adapt well to life challenges?

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Mental resilience  

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Mental resilience is the ability to govern emotions during times of intensity and stress.

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False 

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What is emotional resilience?

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The ability to govern emotions during times of stress. 

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Those with high emotional resilience understand the______ in various social situations. 

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Emotional atmosphere 

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Resilient people tend to have a strong sense of self and high self-awareness.  

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True 

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People with an internal locus of control believe that outside forces have a more significant influence over their fate than they do.

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False 

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People with____ believe that they have more control over their fate than outside forces. 

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an internal locus of control 

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What refers to our sense of our ability to perform tasks competently?

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Self-efficacy 

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What are three ways that you can increase your emotional resilience?

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Connecting with others 

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