Mental Illness Prevention and Mental Health Promotion: When, Who, and How

Psychiatr Serv. 2020 Sep 1;71(9):981-983. doi: 10.1176/


Classification as primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention is based on when during the course of disease the intervention is provided. Another approach to classification-as universal, selective, or indicated preventive interventions-relates to who receives the intervention. The social determinants of health framework also provides a guide to prevention, which requires changing both public policies and social norms. It also addresses the weaknesses of the first two approaches, such as persistent health inequities regarding who has access to preventive services. The social determinants framework is a guide to providing timely and targeted preventive interventions in a way that ensures equal access.

Keywords: Health equity; Mental health promotion; Mental illness prevention; Prevention; Social determinants; Sociopolitical Issues.

MeSH terms

  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Public Policy