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Preventing Mental Illness

Interventions to support students with mental illness often focus on large-scale strategies, such as school-based partnerships with community organizations, to provide treatment in schools (Richardson & Morrissette, 2012).  Schools and communities need more support to provide mental health services in schools. In fact, the public education system is the largest provider of mental health services for youth.  However, only some students are receiving the treatment they need.

Preventing the onset of mental illness and treating mental illness is only one side of the coin. We must treat all individuals who are suffering with depression, anxiety, or delusions. But, we can be more proactive by focusing on the positive side of mental health – promoting mental health strengths .  


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Promoting Mental Health

Hope, gratitude, and social intelligence are a few of the 24 character strengths essential to develop in youth (see VIA).  The absence of mental illness is NOT the presence of psychological well-being. Building strengths and character are essential. 

Furlong et al. found students who self-report more strengths have:

  • higher life satisfaction
  • higher perceptions of school safety along
  • higher academic performance
  • lower rates of drug use
  • lower rates of bullying others (see research track at ).

Thus, youth programs should focus on the promotion of strengths.


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