Psychiatric Mental Health, part 12: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Prevention of Mental Health Disorders
July 30, 2021 Updated: December 29, 2021 4 min read
In this article, we'll explain the prevention of mental health disorders. There are three levels of prevention you need to know about: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Each denotes a different stage relating to a patient’s mental health.
This series follows along with our Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Flashcards which are intended to help RN and PN nursing students study for nursing school exams, including the ATI, HESI, and NCLEX.
Primary prevention focuses on the prevention of mental health disorders in the community before they occur. This level of prevention aims to decrease risk factors and increase protective factors in order to prevent a mental health disorder from occurring in the first place.
Examples of primary prevention activities include youth groups and clubs, which help to increase community bonds and support; parenting classes; and education to prevent substance abuse, which is a key risk factor for a number of mental health disorders. Decreasing substance abuse has the effect of decreasing the number of mental health disorders in a community.
Secondary prevention focuses on the early detection and prompt intervention of mental health disorders. At this level of prevention, a patient already has a mental health disorder, and secondary prevention is aimed at detecting the disorder early in order to intervene promptly.
Essentially, this means screening. Screening patients for depression or suicide risk, for example, can lead to the early intervention ― and prevention — of a more dire outcome.
Suicide hotlines and crisis centers may also be categorized as secondary prevention, where the disorder already exists, but mitigation is possible before the disorder escalates. In this case, speaking to a social worker or trained suicide prevention specialist may help alleviate the situation.
Tertiary prevention focuses on the period after a mental health disorder or crisis has already occurred. The focus at this point is to help promote the patient's recovery as well as to prevent further complications.
Examples of tertiary prevention include outpatient support for a patient following a hospitalization related to a mental health disorder or crisis. It can include pharmacological therapy. And it can include support groups for family and friends of a patient who has committed suicide as a way for them to begin the healing process.
Hi. I'm Cathy with Level Up RN. In this video, we are going to talk about primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of mental health disorders. And if you are following along with our cards, this is the last topic that we'll be covering in the principle section of our psychiatric mental health nursing flash card deck.
So, primary prevention. Primary prevention is focused on prevention of mental health disorders in the community by decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors to really prevent a mental health disorder from occurring in the first place. So examples of primary prevention activities include youth groups and clubs, which help to increase those community bonds and support. Also parenting classes and education to prevent substance abuse. So substance abuse is a key risk factor for a number of mental health disorders, so decreasing substance abuse will in turn decrease the amount of mental health disorders we see in the community.
Then with secondary prevention, we are performing screening, and that's a key intervention that falls within secondary prevention. It is pretty easy to remember because screening starts with S and secondary also starts with S. So we want to screen our patients for depression and suicide risk. Other things that fall within secondary prevention include suicide hotlines and crisis centers. So basically with secondary prevention, we want to provide early detection and prompt intervention for these mental health disorders. We're not preventing them from happening in the first place like we do with primary prevention, but we're kind of getting in there quickly and helping to provide prompt treatment with secondary prevention.
Then we get to tertiary prevention. With tertiary prevention, the mental health disorder or crisis has already occurred, and we want to help promote a patient's recovery, and we want to prevent complications from occurring. And this can include outpatient support for a patient following a hospitalization for a mental health disorder or crisis. It can include pharmacological therapy for a patient who suffers from a mental health disorder. And it can also include a support group for family and friends of a patient who has committed suicide. So those are some examples. So again, with tertiary prevention, the disorder has already occurred, or the crisis has already occurred, and we're really just trying to promote recovery and long-term complications.
All right. So hopefully that was helpful for you guys to go through primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. You kind of need to know these levels of prevention for all of your nursing school classes, so definitely pay attention to those things. And I will see you at my next video where we will dig into therapies. Thank you so much for watching.
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