Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Prevention

Prevention and early intervention strategies can reduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders in America’s communities.

Prevention approaches focus on helping people develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to make good choices or change harmful behaviors. Substance use and mental disorders can make daily activities difficult and impair a person’s ability to work, interact with family, and fulfill other major life functions. Mental illness and substance use disorders are among the top conditions that cause disability in the United States. In addition, drug and alcohol use can lead to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Preventing mental and/or substance use disorders and related problems is critical to Americans’ behavioral and physical health.

SAMHSA’s prevention and early intervention efforts promote informed decision-making and healthy behaviors. Partnering with the Departments of Education and Justice, SAMHSA is working to increase awareness of mental health issues and to connect young people who have behavioral health issues with needed services. Project AWARE has two components:

  • State grants to build on the Safe Schools/Healthy Students State Planning and Community Pilot Program to create safe and supportive schools and communities to prevent violence, make schools safer, and increase access to mental health services.
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to train teachers and other adults who interact with youth to detect and respond to mental illness in children and young adults, including how to seek treatment.

To get involved in prevention efforts within your community, consider finding ways to work within your own community. For example, community coalitions include professional and grassroots members committed to work together to influence long-term health and welfare practices in their community. By using existing resources in the community and bring together many different local organizations, these coalitions are considered to be sustainable over time. For more information about how to help your community, check out SAMHSA’s Community Conversations resources.

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Last Updated: 01/30/2019