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The Big Answer


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Reducing Risks for Mental Disorders: Frontiers for Preventive Intervention Research

a book by Patricia Beezley Mrazek and Robert J. Haggerty

(our site's book review)

Preventing mental disorders has always been a desire of human communities, as few things are more disruptive—and even scary—than a member of one’s group running amok. At least 12 percent (7.5 million) of our nation’s children suffer from one or more mental disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, severe conduct disorder, depression, substance abuse and dependence.

At least 12 percent of our nation’s children suffer from one or more mental disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, severe conduct disorder, depression, substance abuse and dependence
At least 12 percent of our nation’s children suffer from one or more mental disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, severe conduct disorder, depression, substance abuse and dependence


It’s estimated that only 10 to 30 percent of those in need of treatment for mental illness receive appropriate treatment
It’s estimated that only 10 to 30 percent of those in need of treatment for mental illness receive appropriate treatment

Other studies placed the incidence of diagnosable mental disorders of people under 20 years of age at 20 percent. One and a half million children and adolescents are reported abused or neglected each year—actual incidences are way higher than that, obviously. Seven million kids live with an alcoholic parent. The estimated economic cost of substance abuse (including alcohol) and mental illness was just over $300 billion in 1990. It’s estimated that only 10 to 30 percent of those in need of treatment for mental illness receive appropriate treatment.

Therefore, say the authors, it’s time to put more focus on prevention. Social support networks, the perception in individuals of being in control of—rather than at effect of—their lives, the amount of stress in people’s lives, preventative interventions for people identified as at risk for mental problems, expectation of aggression due to childhood experiences, parent-infant bonding, low birth weight and premature birth are all important factors in the development of mental health or illness.

A premature birth
A premature birth

Although the authors look for solutions via more research and more programs of intervention, in the Information Age it may be more politically acceptable (especially in view of the track record of social engineering methods) to concentrate on research and then education about the findings. Providing proactive early information about how to do something right is simply a wiser, cheaper, and more ethical way to go than reactive intervention via bureaucracies. The authors want prevention, but frame it in a welfare state context. One would think they’re expecting to fail at getting the knowledge from their research accepted and applied. (And one would be right.) Besides, what chance is there that the Washington program slashers will fund anything smelling of social engineering? Anyway, the authors are entirely correct that it’s time to put more focus on prevention via better social support networks. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match