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There is compelling evidence from high-quality studies that mental health promotion and primary prevention interventions can reduce the risk of mental disorders, enhance protective factors for good mental and physical health, and lead to lasting positive effects on a range of social and economic outcomes.

The researchers and policymakers are increasingly realizing the potential of preventive psychiatry; however, its implementation is poor in low-resource settings. Utilizing novel interventions, such as mobile-and-internet-based interventions and blended and stepped-care models of care can address the vast mental health need of the population. Additionally, it provides mental health services in a less-stigmatizing and easily accessible, and flexible manner. Furthermore, employing decision support systems/algorithms for patient management and personalized care and utilizing the digital platform for the non-specialists’ training in mental health care are valuable additions to the existing mental health support system. However, more research concerning this is required worldwide, especially in the low-and-middle-income countries.

Focusing on the mental health breakdowns prevention interventions, we wish to answer questions like, (1) What does prevention mean? (2) How can I take preventative measures to help myself and others? (3) What changes can society make to prevent mental health problems?

Many factors influence our mental health, such as our personal history (our family, relationships and how we see ourselves) and our social circumstances (including our housing, employment and education). While it isn’t possible to stop all mental ill-health from developing, many mental health problems can be prevented with the right approach.

Prevention can help all of us, whether we currently have good mental health or not. We all have mental health that changes depending on what’s happening in our lives. There are three types of prevention:

(1) Primary prevention: stopping mental health problems before they start

This focuses on stopping people from developing mental health problems and promoting good mental health for all. It often targets and benefits everyone in a community. Examples include anti-stigma campaigns and trainings in families, schools, churches, workplaces, community gatherings as well as teaching school children about emotions and mental ill health.

(2) Secondary prevention: supporting those at higher risk of experiencing mental health problems

This focuses on supporting people who are more likely to develop mental health problems, either because of characteristics they were born with or experiences they’ve had. It includes all key populations and minority groups (because they have a higher chance of being bullied), people who have experienced trauma, people with long-term physical health conditions and victims of hate crimes among many with predisposing factors.

(3) Tertiary prevention: helping people living with mental health problems to stay well

This helps people with mental ill-health stay well and have a good quality of life. It aims to reduce people’s symptoms, empower them to manage their well-being and reduce the risk of relapse.

There are things we can all do to take care of ourselves and those around us. Prevention will mean different things to different people, depending on our past experiences and current circumstances.

Here are some ways people have found to stay mentally well.

  • Talk about your feelings. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone with any problems you’re going through.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep and mental health are closely linked: mental ill-health can affect your sleep, and poor sleep can affect your mental well-being.
  • Eat well. A balanced diet can improve your sense of well-being and your mood.
  • Stay active. Physical activity is not only good for your body, but it’s also great for your mind.
  • Practice mindfulness, a way to be fully engaged and present in the moment.
  • Keep in touch. Supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life, make you feel cared for and offer a different view from whatever’s going on in your head.
  • Care for others, whether that’s working on relationships with family, letting go of old grudges or volunteering.

Various factors can increase your risk of developing a mental health problem. It’s important to note that none of them means you will definitely experience mental ill-health. Our mental health is complex, and there isn’t any way of predicting which factors will or won’t affect our wellbeing.

Our mental health is shaped by our:

  • biology: our genes play a small role in our mental health
  • environment: the places we live and work, and our relationships
  • experiences: the things that happen to us, especially in early life.

If you’re at higher risk, staying well may look like following the tips above for people who are in good mental health. Or it may mean, for example, getting help from a counsellor to overcome issues from a difficult childhood, finding support if you’ve experienced a hate crime or talking to your GP to better understand a physical health condition.

Our A-Z has more information on factors that can affect your mental health, including stress, poor housing and long-term physical conditions.

Getting informed is often a good starting point to understanding and feeling empowered about managing your condition. Our A-Z has information on a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and eating disorders.

The right support for you will depend on your condition, how it affects you, the severity of your symptoms and your circumstances. As well as the tips above, you may want to try peer support, talking therapy, medication and/or self-management.

It’s not just individual changes that will help us stay well. As a society, we need to tackle inequalities and look at the social, economic, environmental and other factors affecting mental health.

Our report on prevention and mental health looks at the societal changes that will make the biggest difference to everyone’s mental health, namely:

  • helping parents nurture their children
  • protecting children from trauma
  • educating young people to understand and manage their emotions
  • supporting people under a lot of stress at work
  • reducing loneliness for older people
  • building connections in our communities
  • caring for people with suicidal thoughts
  • helping people to recover and look after themselves

World Mental Resilience Programs emphasizes that anyone can have a conversation that may save a life, therefore everyone should learn to know how to have that life-saving conversation. When people across all social institutions are empowered, equipped and capacitated with mental health knowledge and practical skills, (through our services, solutions, systems and programs) they are better positioned to eliminate and manage diverse mental health crisis risk factors through early detection, early intervention, self-help, and support of others in the community hence promoting prevention interventions of mental health breakdowns.


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