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Public health approaches to mental illness

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This is just a brief note on the growing attempts to apply a public health approach to mental health i.e. avoid slow, expensive, and ineffective psychiatrists, and get people's better awareness of the issues to improve health. It is also broadly related to positive psychology.

I now have another page which elaborates on this general approach.

Public mental health

In general, the biggest saving of human life and health have not come from improvements in treatments by doctors and hospitals, but by "public health" measures that prevent disease: clean water, sewage systems, vaccination programmes. Recently the idea has emerged that a similar approach to mental disease might work far better than the current system of slow, expensive, and not very effective treatment by specialists.

An impressive study showing this reported a reduction in suicide rate of 33% from a series of such "educational" measures:
Kerry L Knox, David A Litts, G Wayne Talcott, Jill Catalano Feig & Eric D Caine (2003) "Risk of suicide and related adverse outcomes after exposure to a suicide prevention programme in the US Air Force: cohort study" British Medical Journal vol/no.327 pp.1376-8 20 Dec 2003.     doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7428.1376
online, interactive tables     full pdf     short pdf

There is some local research in this area:   1   2   3

  • Self-help for depression

  • Robo therapy:   1   2   3 -->
  • Self-help podcasts from the university student counselling service.

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