Over the past decades, people have become more concerned about ways to treat and prevent mental illness. However, we have a long way to go, and our issues are far from solved. So, what’s the solution? What can we do?
One way of improvement is to build resilience and antifragility against mental illness, so we can prevent future harm to our well-being. Now, when it comes to mental health and well-being in general, it’s best to use preventative methods rather than treatment, don’t you agree?
Why does it matter so much to prevent mental illness?
•Well, the burden of problems associated with mental health is at its peak between the ages of 12 and 25. In fact, 75% of these disorders start before 25.
•o In addition, the waiting list for receiving care is very long, and it keeps getting longer. Apart from that, it’s not affordable for many, and it’s getting even more expensive; while not getting help leads to lower quality of life, lower life expectancy, problems in social functioning, lower ability to work, and stigmatization.
So, two of the key elements to reduce the economical and social impacts of mental health disorders are:
2. Early interventions.
At Colorful Zone, we specialize in “prevention”!
How Can We Prevent Mental Illness?
When mental health complaints are present, online predictive interventions are effective, useable, and acceptable. They’re effective, because research shows positive mental health signs and increased resilience. Also, accessibility and acceptance have been reported by the users.
Currently, there’s a significant gap between needing care, and seeking care. This makes it more important to prevent mental illness and have interventions that are focused on very early stages, even before “needing help”! With that being said, the reasons behind young people seeking help at a later stage include:
1. Stigma and shame
2. Practical reasons (such as costs)
These online, preventive interventions try to address these issues and prevent mental illness- they provide anonymous, safe, and practical interventions (especially because they’re both accessible and affordable).
What Is the Aim of Mental Illness Prevention?
Unfortunately, two major disorders today are depression and anxiety, being among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders according WHO.
The aim is to prevent mental illness- to eventually empower people by strengthening protective factors, such as improving cognitive and social skills. Interestingly, research shows that these skills protect us from depression and depressive symptoms, because they increase self-esteem, a sense of mastery, stress resistance, and more.
Similarly, anxiety disorders also appear first in childhood and adolescence, which shows that primary prevention for this group is essential. Research also tells us that improving emotional resiliency and cognitive skills are two major keys in preventing anxiety symptoms.
In our digital experience, Happiness-19, we use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is skill-based, and easily used in this group age. It includes emotional, cognitive, and social skills that are essential for us to prevent mental illness.
Universal vs. Indicated Prevention
There are two types of mental illness prevention. Let’s see what they are:
o Universal prevention is targeting individuals with no presenting problems.
o Indicated prevention is targeting individuals with mild to moderate problems (but not with clinical problems).
In both of these types of prevention, technology-delivered interventions have shown to be effective when scientifically tested. This is especially true if the intervention is based on skill-training. Otherwise, they’re only effective on people with mild problems (not for those with no problems). Therefore, skill-training is essentially beneficial for everyone!
Prevention and the Brain
The process of a brain becoming mature takes three decades. Starting from mid-childhood until mid-20s, this period is where adult mental health disorders have the risk of developing the most.
What’s more, cortical developments are heavily influenced by the environment- this is why learning skills at this period is very important.
Not all mental disorders persist, but some do; and the burden is too much. So, we should think of the best way to prevent mental illness.
How is our Mental Illness Prevention Designed?
Certain considerations can increase how efficient digital mental health interventions are overall:
1. Human support
2. Technological features for improving engagement
This is how we have incorporated these two in our design:
1. A Real-Life Pen Pal: Each day, an online pen pal sends you the materials for the day. You can write back and ask questions, or just talk. This person is there for you whenever you need a friend.
2. Story-Telling: Imagine there is a cabinet inside your mind, full of different mason jars! Each jar is filled with the necessities of mental health. So, these jars hold the ingredients of making your own happiness as well! Your mind knows the best recipes just for you, but you should take care of the jars and always keep them full to make happy adventures.
What Skills are included?
All in all, we include skills that help people cope better with difficult situations and prevent mental illness. These are social skills, cognitive skills, emotional skills, and behavioral skills.