Mental health research and practice cover a wide spectrum of disorders and a wide range of social influences affecting the causation, course and outcome of episodes of illness. It is impossible in a single chapter to do justice to this wealth of information and practice wisdom, and we have chosen to focus on adults of working age. A major reason for concentrating on adults of working age is that the incidence and prevalence of common mental disorders (depression/anxiety and so on) is considerable and the economic costs to society are huge. Also, as demonstrated some years ago (Huxley et al., 1989a, 1989b), in the average social workers caseload, whether made up of childcare cases or older people or a mixture of all types, one can confidently expect about two-thirds of the people being helped to have some form of common mental disorder. Similarly, Isaac et al. (1986) showed that a huge proportion of the parents of the children being helped have a psychiatric history themselves.
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