Mental health prevention refers not only to preventing mental health disorders from emerging but also to efforts to support people with and without mental health disorders to stay well.
Ms Ritika Aggarwal, Consultant Psychologist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre
says, mental health prevention can be segregated into 3 sectors: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Primary mental health prevention works in the area of working on preventing mental health concerns before they occur and promoting well being among the general public. Secondary mental health prevention refers to supporting those that are at a higher risk of developing mental health concerns. Tertiary mental health prevention looks into supporting those with existing mental health disorders and improving their quality of life.
In fact, World Mental Health Day is an excellent example of primary mental health prevention. Look around you at the number of mental health literacy programs being held by psychologists & psychiatrists world over to educate and promote well being among all. Similar programs to raise awareness are constantly being held to work towards this goal. This would also include training more people on how to communicate with and help their family and friends if they were to be feeling low – the language used is very important as it can either resolve or increase stigma.
We’re all aware of the various risk factors associated with developing mental health concerns, and this can help us create targeted programs for secondary mental health prevention. We know that certain physical health disorders increase the likelihood of developing a mental health condition. In such cases, we can start supportive work with these patients once they’re diagnosed.
In tertiary mental health prevention, the focus shifts to the client learning to manage their own symptoms using ‘indicated’ solutions. While it is distinct from the treatment process, it is considered complementary as they have shared goals of reducing the severity of the illness as well as the risk of relapse.
To work towards these goals of preventing mental health concerns, we need to come together as a community and invest more in mental health. We need to reach out to more people to work on primary mental health prevention through talks on breaking stigma and working towards accepting mental health conditions the same way we accept physical ones. We also need to work on creating a stronger body for mental health professionals wherein this work can be undertaken to reach out to the farthest corners of our country in an organized manner, keeping in mind the cultural and language differences of each part of India.