Purpose of review
Mental disorders take a major toll, economically, socially, and psychologically, on individuals, families, and societies. Prevention provides an important and realistic opportunity to overcome this major health problem. This review outlines a conceptual framework for mental health prevention and effective strategies and programs for the prevention of mental disorders.
Risk and protective factors for mental illness provide leverage points for prevention interventions. A life course perspective, looking at disease from conception, pregnancy, parenting, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood to aging, emphasizes the importance of targeting prevention efforts as early as possible in life. Currently available effective and realistic preventions targeting major phases of life including both universal (community) and selective high-risk approaches are noted. The Internet and its associated technologies are seen to have great potential for prevention.
Common mental disorders are preventable, and prevention is cost-effective. Although the evidence base for the prevention of mental disorders needs to be expanded with rigorous large-scale pragmatic trials of promising effective programs, we have at our disposal strong evidence and effective tools on which to base prevention efforts. These facts need to be fully communicated to providers, policy makers, and the population at large, and acted upon.