Prevention of mental disorders requires action on adverse childhood experiences

Article by: Anthony F Jorm and Roger T Mulder

The increased availability of treatment has not reduced the prevalence of mental disorders, suggesting a need for a greater emphasis on prevention. With chronic physical diseases, successful prevention efforts have focused on reducing the big risk factors. If this approach is applied to mental disorders, the big risk factors are adverse childhood experiences, which have major effects on most classes of mental disorder across the lifespan. While the evidence base is limited, there is support for a number of interventions to reduce adverse childhood experiences, including an important role for mental health professionals. Taking action on adverse childhood experiences may be our best chance of emulating the success of public health action to prevent chronic physical diseases and thereby reduce the large global burden of mental disorders.