This entry defines comorbidity and similar terms used in various fields of practice. It addresses the prevalence of comorbidity, suggests explanations for comorbidity, and discusses integrated treatment for comorbid conditions and the importance of the concept of comorbidity in social work practice.
Diana M. DiNitto
Catherine G. Greeno
Mental illnesses are very common; more than one-quarter of people will develop a mental illness during their lifetime. Mental illnesses are associated with substantial disability in work, relationships, and physical health, and have been clearly established as one of the leading causes of disability in the developing, as well as the industrialized world. Mental disorders are common in every service sector important to social workers, and affect outcomes in every service sector. Mental disorders are strongly associated with poverty worldwide, and are common and often unrecognized in the general health sector, child welfare, and criminal justice settings, among others. Basic information about mental health is thus important to all social workers. Information about classification systems and major categories of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, psychotic disorders, and substance abuse disorders, is presented. The service system for mental disorders is badly underdeveloped, and most people who need treatment do not receive it. There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating effective treatments, and policy is moving toward requiring that treatments offered be evidence based. This is a period of a great explosion of knowledge about mental health, and we can expect considerable advances in the coming years.
W. Patrick Sullivan
The psychosocial catastrophe that accompanies serious mental illness negatively impacts individual performance and success in all key life domains. A person-in-environment perspective, and with a traditional and inherent interest in consumer and community strengths, is well positioned to address psychiatric disabilities. This entry describes a select set of habilitation and rehabilitation services that are ideally designed to address the challenges faced by persons with mental illness. In addition, it is argued that emphasis on a recovery model serves as an important framework for developing effective interventions.