Mental Illness and Other Health Problems


Many diseases strike without warning but a surprising number can be prevented with some effort and simple lifestyle changes. Eating well, exercising, not smoking, avoiding stress and getting enough sleep are all important factors to help prevent disease.

People’s health depends on the conditions in which they live, learn, work and play (called the social determinants of health). These include genetics, the physical environment, the behaviours of individuals and the choices that they make.


Most people know that good hygiene can prevent infections, that not smoking or overindulging in alcohol and food can reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and that wearing a seatbelt or stretching before exercising can decrease their chances of injury. But what many don’t realize is that mental illness can also be prevented by taking action and avoiding negative conditions or environments.

Prevention science uses the social, behavioral, medical and biomedical sciences to understand what factors influence societal and community level problems. It seeks to develop practices, policies and interventions that reduce health risks, increase protective factors and strengthen conditions that enable people to thrive.

There are three types of prevention: universal, selective and indicated. Universal prevention focuses on all populations – such as all students in a school – and seeks to prevent substance use disorders; selective prevention identifies individuals who are at risk for developing a disorder, for example, by screening them for depression; and indicated prevention provides help to those who are already experiencing a problem, for instance, treatment for a traumatic brain injury.


Treatment is the attempted remediation of a health problem, usually following a diagnosis. It may involve medical or surgical intervention, or therapy. Treatment can also be preventive, anticipating illness before it occurs, and thereby limiting its impact. This includes educating patients on diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices to promote good health, as well as immunizations, and the prescription of medications such as vitamins and supplements.

A health care provider can treat many different conditions, lessen their symptoms and even cure them. A cure is when the treatment completely removes a health problem and it’s not expected to return, such as athlete’s foot treatment that kills the fungus that causes it. A patient can also treat themselves by using self-help plans, addressing wellness and recovery, and/or receiving support from others who have experienced the same condition. Also known as a treatment plan or treatment cycle. (abbreviated: Tx)


For most people, rehabilitation will equate to the idea of having physiotherapy sessions or having an exercise programme to follow at home. However, there is a lot more that can be done to help people with health problems.

Psychosocial rehabilitation focuses on the network of factors that can affect an individual’s ability to manage their health condition, and the barriers that may prevent them from reaching their desired goals and maintaining well-being. It aims to empower individuals, promote social inclusion, and offer support for coping skills and self-management.

Phase 1 of the rehabilitative process usually concentrates on controlling pain and inflammation. Treatments may include rest, ice packs, compression bandages, massage and medication. Phase 2 focuses on increasing strength. This might involve isometric exercises (pushing against an immovable object) or the use of elastic bands of varying resistances, free weights and/or cuff weight equipment. It may also involve stretching exercises. This can help to improve balance and proprioception – the body’s ability to sense its position in space without looking.

End of Life Care

End of life care includes health care provided in the hours and days before a person dies. This type of care can prevent unnecessary trips to the emergency room and reduce expensive hospital stays. It can also relieve pain, and meet emotional, spiritual, and physical needs.

It’s important for everyone to prepare advance directives and discuss their wishes with loved ones and health care providers, especially older adults. This can help reduce confusion and conflict that may occur at the end of life.

People’s access to palliative care and end of life services varies by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. This inequality is a serious problem and warrants greater attention from health professionals and public policymakers. People who experience stress, grief, or conflict between family members at the end of life can benefit from mediation assistance. This could include a trained nurse, social worker, or hospice specialist. It may also involve a lawyer or counselor.