Public Health Approach to Mental Health

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A public health approach to mental health has been advocated by the World Health Organization1 and provides the guiding framework for Every Moment Counts, emphasizing the promotion of mental health as well as the prevention of and intervention for mental illness. National leaders in the field of children's mental health have also promoted the adoption of a multi-tiered public health approach.2,3,4,5,6 This framework supports a change in thinking from the traditional individually-focused deficit driven model of mental health intervention to a whole-population, strength-based approach. Because addressing children's mental health is complex, authorities are calling for a shift in practices – to better prepare all school personnel (e.g., teachers, administrators, para-educators, and related service providers) to proactively address the mental health needs of all students.7

Within this public health model, a range of intervention services are provided and include:

  • Promotion: enhancing competencies; optimizing positive mental health
  • Prevention: reducing risks; minimizing mental health problems
  • Intensive, individualized: interventions provided to reduce the effects of a mental illness and restore mental health

Depicted as a pyramid representing a multi-tiered system of interventions and supports, this approach is designed to meet the mental health needs of all students at Tier 1: universal, whole-school; Tier 2: targeted, at-risk; and Tier 3: intensive, individualized. Check out the following tabs to learn more about services at each tier.