Mental health problems of elderly often go unnoticed
As part of the observance of National Mental Health Month, May 21 - 27 has been set aside to observe Older Americans’ Mental Health Week to spread the message that mental illness is not a normal part of aging, to increase the community’s understanding of mental illness and reduce the stigma that keeps many older Americans from seeking help.
Here are some facts about mental health and aging from the Older Women’s League (OWL), www.owl-national.org.
o While older adults may experience many losses, deep sadness that lingers may signal clinical depression.
o One in five Americans (of all ages) has a diagnosable mental disorder during any one year.
o Good mental health contributes greatly to an overall feeling of well-being.
o Some mental illnesses, like depression, may have physical symptoms, such as pain. Unfortunately, symptoms of some physical illnesses can also be confused for mental illnesses.
o Older adults without a history of substance abuse, may abuse medications, alcohol or drugs.
o Only half of older adults who discuss specific mental health problems with a physician receive any treatment.
o Older adults have the highest suicide rate in the country and their suicide attempts are moth lethal. For those 65 and older, there is one suicide for every four attempts compared to one suicide for every 20 attempts for all other age groups.
o Depression is not a normal part of aging. People expect older adults to be depressed or disoriented because of their age, their changing roles, or their loss of family and friends. The truth is that clinical depression is different than grief over losses, and older adults with depression can be helped through counseling and medication.
o Depressed seniors often have a difficult time describing how they are feeling. If they grew up at a time when depression was not understood to be a biological disorder and a medical illness, they may see a stigma attached to the condition. Some seniors fear being labeled “crazy,” or worry that their illness will be seen as a character weakness.
o Mental illness can suddenly appear later in life. Many older adults become vulnerable to depression and other mental illnesses in connection with the onset of physical ailments.
o Undiagnosed and untreated mental illness has serious consequences. Older adults who live with mental illness are more likely to have physical problems and stay sick longer. People with depression, for example, are more likely to have heart problems and need nursing care early.
o Older adults need special services. Research shows that the sooner older adults get proper diagnosis and treatment, the better their long-term health will be.
“Mentally healthy adults can continue to enjoy life, learn and grow,” says Laurie Young, PhD, Executive Director of OWL.
“Older adults need help from people who understand their specific needs and issues.”
Source:- By PAT ROSS/Administrative Assistant, Columbiana County MHRS Board