A main goal of prevention efforts in the Military Health System (MHS) is to promote psychological wellness among service members and their families. Psychological wellness is not just an absence of mental health disorders and symptoms, but rather a “state of well-being in which persons can realize their abilities, cope with life’s stresses, and work regularly and productively,” according to a 2014 report from the Institute of Medicine.[ Reference 1 ]

Prevention interventions focus on reducing risk for mental health disorders and promoting positive psychological health. Prevention interventions are typically classified into three categories: universal, selective, and indicated. Universal interventions are directed at an entire population, selective interventions are aimed at groups at increased risk, and indicated interventions target those at greatest risk or those who have early signs or symptoms of a disorder.[ Reference 2 ]

Some prevention interventions are designed to motivate individuals to adopt healthy behaviors and provide skills to support this. Other interventions focus on creating environments that support and enhance these healthy behaviors. Research indicates that the most effective prevention interventions incorporate both approaches.[ Reference 3 ]

Department of Defense Prevention Mission

DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1010.10, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, (April 28, 2014), indicates that it is Department of Defense (DoD) policy to “provide effective, integrated, and comprehensive health promotion and disease prevention programs throughout the DoD that are based on scientific evidence” and, more specifically, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, in consultation with the Surgeons General of the military departments, “recommends and prioritizes evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention initiatives in accordance with the MHS mission, strategies, and objectives.”

DoD implements many different prevention strategies to support the psychological health of service members and their families across the continuum of care. The strategies include policies, programs, practices, and resources. These strategies range from indicated programs that provide support to service members and their families to universal prevention programs that aim to raise community awareness of mental health issues and encourage help-seeking behaviors. The Psychological Health Center of Excellence advances the psychological health of service members and their families by identifying evidence-based prevention strategies and enacting psychological health advocacy practices for the MHS, non-clinical providers, leaders, agencies, and beneficiaries.


  1. Institute of Medicine. (2014). Preventing psychological disorder in service members and their families: An assessment of programs. Washington, D.C: The National Academies Press.

  2. Kellam, S.G., & Langevin, D.J. (2003). A framework for understanding “evidence” in prevention research and programs. Prevention Science, 4(3), 137–153.

  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Center for the application of prevention technologies. Prevention Approaches. Retrieved from