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The Promise and Possibilities of Primary Prevention
Primary prevention aims to stop problems before they occur. Preventive efforts that address risk factors for psychological dysfunction are vitally important and feasible, as the following quotes indicate:
Resilience “…vivifies an emerging paradigm shift in mental health, built around the intriguing possibility that psychological dysfunction can be better approached through prevention than by struggling, however valiantly and compassionately, to undo deeply-rooted damage.” (Cowen, Wyman, Work, & Iker, 1995, p.248)
“The concept of prevention as it is used in public health has been taken seriously in the mental health field only in the last few decades…. There is a need for both universal interventions to promote health in broad populations as well as for interventions targeted at high-risk groups.” (Panel report to National Prevention Conference sponsored by NIMH, Coie et al, 1991, p.1013)
“We must recognize the fact that no mass disorder affecting large numbers of human beings has ever been controlled or eliminated by attempts at treating each affected individual. This is not only sound public health doctrine, but it is as applicable to the field of mental health as it is to the field of public health.” (Albee and Gulotta, l986, p.217)
“Earlier successes of prevention in areas of physical health—notably the positive benefits of improved nutrition, better sanitation standards, and the eventually successful efforts at inoculation against communicable diseases—offered great hope that similar victories might be gained in the area of mental health.” (DeArmond and Marsh, 1984, p.671)
“Prevention offers the potential for avoiding widespread human suffering, as well as saving costs associated with treatment and lost productivity. Further, preventive intervention trials provide a strong test of causal theory: the successful modification of processes and mechanisms hypothesized to cause adverse outcomes, and subsequent avoidance of these outcomes, helps investigators to discern a causal relationship.” (Muehrer and Koretz, l992, p.109)
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General calls mental illness a critical need that the Nation must address, and calls for prevention efforts that consider risk and protective factors (DHHS, 1999).
References
Albee, G. W., & Gulotta, T. P. (l986). Facts and fallacies about primary prevention. Journal of Primary Prevention, 6 (4), 207-218.
Coie, J. D., Watt, N. F., West, S. G., Hawkins, J. D., Asarnow, J. R., Markman, H. J., Ramey, S. L., Shure, M. B., & Long, B. (1993). The Science of Prevention: A conceptual framework and some directions for a national research program. American Psychologist, 48, 1013-1022.
Cowen, E. L., Wyman, P. A., Work, W. C., & Iker, M. R. (1995). A preventive intervention for enhancing resilience among highly stressed urban children. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 15(3), 247-260.
DeArmond, M. M., & Marsh, K. F. (l984). Preventive psychiatry on the college campus. Psychiatric Annals, 14, 671-678.
Department of Health and Human Services. (1999). Mental health: A report of the Surgeon General. (DHHS Publication No. ADM 01702401653-5), Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Muehrer, P., & Koretz, D. S. (l992). Issues in preventive intervention research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1, l09-112.
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