Psychological Self-Help

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43
survey one third of us will be at least mildly mentally or emotionally ill
sometime during the next year! (The most common disorders are
depression, drug or alcohol dependence, and social fears. Problems in
living are in addition to the one third with "disorders", including
problems like being over weight, procrastinating, being anxious or
having a bad temper, being unhappy at work, having marital
problems, etc.) Obviously, we are not doing a very good job of
preventing mental-emotional disorders or ordinary problems, but there
is evidence we could. 
Several studies have shown that adolescent problems, like
depression, introversion, and aggressiveness, can be forecast in the
first and second grade. There are early signs of stress in a love
relationship that warn us of serious marital problems. It doesn't take a
genius to predict that a hostile, mean bully is going to cause and have
interpersonal problems as a teenager and as an adult. Even totally
untrained observers can pick out the young child who is more likely to
become schizophrenic at age 20 or so. Prevention of problems,
however, requires your attention: you will need to assess how likely
you are to develop a variety of particular problems (a task you will be
tempted to avoid); you will need knowledge to decide how to best
avoid the long-range undesirable consequences; you need to plan a
self-help project to carry out the preventative measures. Probably the
majority of serious psychological and interpersonal problems could be
avoided by alert self-helpers (and a school system oriented to
psychological well-being). I do not want to suggest that psychology
has already perfected prevention methods, but psychologists are
finding some effective self-help ways to prevent serious problems,
such as depression (Munoz, 1993). Albee & Gullotta (1997), working
with the National Mental Health Association, have described 14 award-
winning prevention programs; these could serve as how-to manuals
for other communities. Other researchers (Durlak & Wells, 1977;
Weissberg & Greenberg, 1977) have evaluated several prevention
programs for children and adolescents, these involve schools and
professionals but education (and self-help) plays a part too. Prevention
requires attending to parts of your life that are not yet problems.
Clearly, some of the self-help methods, especially behavioral-cognitive
methods (see chapters 4 & 14), for handling a serious problem could
be used to prevent the problem. 
Conclusions
You are, thus far, pretty much on your own to take care
of your life. No system or basic institution, such as family, church,
school, friends, or health/psychological caretakers, has taken on
the task of helping you learn to cope with the minor or serious
troubles that will come your way (denial is easier and, thus, self-
help isn't a big money maker). A lot of your welfare depends on
luck--being born middle class... or being raised in a psychologically
healthy family... or being given healthy genes... or being endowed
with the ability to learn coping skills on your own. To become
effective at coping, you need to practice thinking of self-help as
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