Early intervention

  • Ensures effective treatments are provided as soon as possible with potential to reduce distress, improve people’s life chances and reduce health care costs 16 17
  • Needs improvements to be made in access to mental health care in primary care for underserved groups.18 19
  • Is relevant for all mental health problems – including anxiety, depression and psychosis. Severe problems, e.g. psychosis, are often preceded by anxiety symptoms – management of which may affect progression.
  • Prevention activities may avoid the need for specialist secondary care, and its associated higher costs20.
  • Primary mental health care teams (e.g. GPs, practice nurses, health visitors, district nurses) can undertake pro-active and outreach work recognising symptoms and acting upon them with at-risk groups, and to develop self-referral routes into services.

Particular groups are at much higher risk of mental illness and therefore can especially benefit from preventive and early interventions: 20

  • People on low incomes (people with household incomes in the lowest 20% are at higher risk of mental health problems than those with incomes in the highest 20%)
  • Black and minority ethnic groups (two to three-fold increased risk of suicide and a nearly 4-fold increase in psychosis)
  • People with learning disability (two-fold increased risk of depression and a three-fold increased risk of schizophrenia)
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual people (higher risk of common mental disorders, suicide attempts, psychosis and alcohol dependence)
  • People with a chronic physical ill-health (two to three-fold increased risk of depression – seven-fold increased risk with two or more chronic physical illnesses)
  • Older adults (increased risk of depression and, particularly if living alone, suicide)
  • Carers of people with long-term illness and disability are at high risk of poor health (30% rated ‘poor’) especially of depression (33%)20.