A Multidimensional Approach: Mapping the Range of Interventions for Mental Health

A Multidimensional Approach: Mapping the Range of Interventions for Mental Health

Featured Painting Title: Little Girl
By Fay Jackson

"This painting is a metaphor for how vulnerable a person feels when they are suffering from mental illness. They feel so small, alone and out of control; work and living is so hard. They feel their life could capsize and be drowned any minute, but they row on with courage to make it to safe land. They need a friend to help and guide them and to nip at the heels of anything dangerous but be ready to give affection and support any second they turn for it."



Spectrum of interventions for mental health problem

Society has a wide range of interventions for preventing mental health problems and helping people with mental illnesses. Mental health first aid is just one part of the spectrum of intervention. 

The course of a well person developing mental health problems, which may progress on to a diagnosable mental illness, and then to the process of recovering. There are different types of interventions appropriate at these states of mental health. For the person who is well or with some mild symptoms, prevention programs are appropriate. For the person who is moving from mild mental health problems to a mental illness, early intervention approaches can be used. For a person who is very unwell with a mental illness, a range of treatment and support approaches are available, which will assist the person in their recovery process


Prevention programs are available to help everyone in the community, as well as targeted programs for people who are particularly at risk.
'These can include campaigns to reduce stigma of mental illnesses, drug education programs in schools, resilience training, stress management courses, and parenting skills training.


Early intervention
Early intervention programs target people with mental health problems and those who are just developing mental illnesses. They aim to prevent problems from becoming more serious and reduce the likelihood of secondary effects such as loss of employment, school drop-out, relationship break-up and drug and alcohol problems. Many people have a long delay between developing a mental illness and receiving appropriate treatment and support.

The longer people delay getting help and support, the more difficult their recovery can be. It is important that people are supported by their family, friends and work colleagues during this time. People are more likely to seek help if someone close to them suggests it.

It is during this early intervention phase that giving mental health first aid can play an important role.


Treatment and supports
There are many different types of treatment and supports that can help people with mental illnesses function better and aid their recovery.

Once the person has made the decision to seek help, they may choose from a number of helping sources, treatment approaches, and service settings. There is no "one size fits all" approach for mental illnesses.

Medical treatments include various types of prescribed medications and other treatments given by a doctor.

Psychological treatments involve providing a supportive relationship and changing the way the person thinks or behaves. Usually it is talking face-to-face with a mental health professional, or sometimes in a group to address issues and to promote personal growth and coping skills. Self-help books and computerised psychological treatments are also available.

Complementary treatment and lifestyle changes involve using natural or alternative therapies and changing the way one lives. Care should be taken to ensure that the self-help strategies employed are based on evidence or have been recommended by an appropriate professional.

Support groups bring people with common problems together who share experiences and help each other. Participation in mutual aid self-help groups can help reduce feelings of isolation, increase knowledge, enhance coping skills and bolster self-esteem.

Rehabilitation programs help people regain skills and confidence to live and work in their community.

Family and friends are a very important source of support for a person with a mental illness. Family and friends can help by having an understanding of the illness and providing the same support as they would if the person has a physical illness.


Mental health first aid can continue to play an important role in this period if relapses or crises occur. At such times, people need to be supported by those around them, in particular when no expert help is immediately available.

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