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Much of the burden of depression and anxiety in the population is attributable to subclinical symptoms. Broadening formal health-care systems to treat subclinical depression and anxiety is not the answer to reducing this burden, because health-care systems lack the resources even to provide optimal care to clinical cases. The solution proposed is the population-wide dissemination of informal self-help strategies that have evidence for effectiveness. These are highly acceptable to the public, easily applied, inexpensive and may avert the development of many clinical cases.