Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How is your Mental Health Today?

Dear Friend of Global Action on Aging,
How is your mental health today?  You and I often recognize most of the health challenges facing older adults.  But we continue to overlook – under-report and under-treat the mental health issues that we older people face.  Why? 
Some experts say that we confuse what is “normal” aging behavior and what is “psychiatric” conditions.  Of course, some people face mental health problems throughout their lives and others develop conditions in their later years that can be treated fairly easily. 
What does the data show?  Today, about 25% of older adults has a significant mental disorder.  It could be depression or anxiety.  Another 7% has a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.  Many other mental conditions go un-reported. 

Nationally in the US over the next 25 years, the number of older adults with major psychiatric illnesses is expected to more than double from 7 to 15 million individuals as the Baby Boom generation ages. In Hawaii, by the year 2020, every fourth person will be 60 years or older.  Without good treatment, these conditions can lead to increased disability, additional caregiver stress, poor health, increased mortality and even greater risk of suicide.
Apparently, older persons are less likely than younger persons to recognize their own mental health problems.  Only about 3% see a mental health professional for help, a rate far lower than persons of younger ages.  Nearly one elder in seven suffers from depression. . . .but yet 70 to 90 % don’t seek or get any treatment.

If you are feeling “blue,” or persistently discouraged or sad, seek help.  Get to a doctor or a sympathetic person that you trust to ask for help.  Get the help you need to recover your positive take on life.  Life is short; enjoy the day!

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

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