Describe primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of mental illness, and give an example of service for each level of prevention.

Primary prevention of mental illness occurs before its onset, secondary prevention reduces the progression of a mental illness at an early stage, and tertiary prevention helps to reduce the complications and ease the symptoms of an individual who is already diagnosed.

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Primary prevention of mental illness is about identifying risk and increasing factors of protection for general population groups, at-risk communities, or individuals who may be displaying early indicators of mental illness but have not yet met the criteria. These prevention strategies will always take place prior to a diagnosis. Examples can include anything community-wide or preventative, such as community education related to self-care and social/emotional skills, or the establishment of a nurturing environment for an at-risk individual.

Secondary prevention of mental illness is related to reducing the progression of an individual’s developing mental illness via early identification and early treatment. Examples can include anything related to early screening and intervention.

Tertiary prevention is focused on minimizing the impact of mental illness for individuals who have been diagnosed or are at risk of relapse. Examples can include anything related to community outreach, reducing and managing symptoms, improving quality of life, and limiting any disabling complications.

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