Community Approaches to Mental Health Treatment: Prevention & Intervention

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  • 0:07 Community Mental Health
  • 1:58 Prevention
  • 3:06 Intervention
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How are people with mental illnesses treated? In this lesson, we'll look at community mental health initiatives aimed at helping people prevent and get treatment for psychological disorders.

Community Mental Health

Philippe Pinel knew that there was something wrong with the way that mental patients were treated. At the turn of the 19th century, Pinel found himself running a famous psychiatric institution in France. As in other parts of the world, the patients were chained up and subjected to some horrible treatments. At the time, that's the only thing that doctors knew to do for the mentally ill.

But Pinel believed that patients would respond better if they were treated with dignity, and so he changed the way he ran his institution. He talked about how people with psychological disorders should be given more freedom, not less, and how they should be treated with respect. Pinel's changes planted a seed that slowly grew over time. Almost 250 years after Pinel first began to talk of changing the way patients were treated, a widespread movement known as deinstitutionalization, or the process of releasing psychological patients into the community and treating them as out-patients, became popular in the United States and many other countries.

Deinstitutionalization represented a large step forward for psychological patients. Before, they had been housed in institutions or psychiatric hospitals and kept away from society. But starting in the mid-20th century, the focus shifted to how to treat patients while allowing them to live in society. One important part of deinstitutionalization was the setting up of community mental health centers. These centers, usually funded by the government, provide services to people with psychological issues. Whether for a person with addiction issues, autism, or schizophrenia, community mental health centers offer many programs to help. Let's look closer at two types of programs that community mental health centers offer: prevention and intervention.


One goal of community mental health centers is prevention. Prevention focuses on keeping people from developing a mental illness. Let's look at an example.

Auggie is a freshman in college. Like many young people, he's excited and ready to have a good time. But also like many young people, he sees many of his friends drinking and doing drugs. They all seem to be having a good time. Should Auggie join in?

Addiction is a very serious problem for many people, and Auggie runs the risk of becoming addicted if he begins to party too much. A community health center might run a program aimed at educating young people about the risks of addiction in order to prevent them from developing that particular psychological disorder.

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