Fact Sheets

Facts About Prevention of Mental Illness

Fact 1: There is much evidence that reducing biological and psychosocial risk factors can prevent mental disorders. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/home.html

Fact 2: Several exemplary programs exist to prevent biological and psychosocial risk factors. http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/545.pdf

Fact 3: There is credible evidence that certain well implemented programs can achieve significantly more benefits than costs to taxpayers and that prevention of mental disorder pays. http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/04-07-3901.pdf

Fact 4: Scientists agree an interaction between genetic and environmental factors influences mental health.

-Genetic factors. Scientists believe some individuals have a genetic predisposition for mental illness. Although genes influence the development of mental illnesses, they do not preordain it. Certain environmental conditions must also be present. Schizophrenia is considered highly heritable. The likelihood that identical twins will both have the disorder is 50 percent. This means that in half the cases, one twin will not have the disorder, suggesting that environmental factors exert a significant influence in the onset of schizophrenia.

-Environmental factors. Damage from exposure to alcohol, illegal drugs, and tobacco; low birth weight; brain injury or oxygen deprivation; infection, poor nutrition, or exposure to toxins in the environment may negatively affect the development of the fetus and newborn contributing to the onset of mental disorders.

Children that experience stress from poverty and abuse and neglect are vulnerable to developing depression, anxiety, and antisocial behaviors that may continue into adulthood. Research has found that parental mental health problems increases the risk for mental health problems in their children. There is also a relationship between traumatic life events, such as parental death or divorce, and the onset of major depression in young children, especially if they occur in early childhood and lead to a permanent, negative change in the child’s life.