Spotlight on the Importance of Mental Health for Seniors
Mental health is a topic that requires increased attention in today’s world. Unfortunately, seniors are not exempt from mental illness. Fellowship Square takes an in-depth look at how seniors, and their caregivers, can advocate for their mental health, which the National Institute of Mental Health defines as “emotional, psychological, and social well-being.”
The report The State of Mental Health and Aging in America by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) notes an estimated 20 percent of people 55 years of age and older experience some type of mental health concern. Some of the most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.
Furthermore, suicide is reported at an alarming rate among seniors as a result of mental health issues. The suicide rate among men 85 years of age and older is 45.23 per 100,000, compared to the overall rate of 11.01 per 100,000 for all ages. The study also notes that many adults 65 years of age and older report that they “rarely” or “never” receive the social and emotional support they need to manage their mental health. But social support is actually key in helping to reduce mental health issues among seniors.
The report defines the functions that social support provides — emotional support (such as sharing problems or simply venting emotions), informational support (such as offering guidance or advice), and instrumental support (such as giving a senior a ride or helping with the upkeep of their home). These small efforts by family, loved ones, friends, and neighbors can make a great deal of difference in the lives of seniors who may be experiencing mental health issues such as depression
In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health website states that the “impact of depression on health in older adults can be severe: much research has reported that depression is associated with worse health in people with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.” The site goes on to report that depression can make the treatment of these conditions more complicated, including making it more challenging for those experiencing depression to care for themselves or to seek the treatment they need.
The organization notes the following warning signs may be an indication of a mental health issue:
• Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
• Difficulty concentrating
• Feeling stressed
• Increased worry
• Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
• Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain
• Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
• Suicidal thoughts, or unusual thinking or behaviors that concern others
Fellowship Square advises seniors or their caregivers to pay attention to how they are feeling or acting, particularly if these feelings or actions seem unusual or out of character. It’s important that seniors get the proper care for any mental health concerns as soon as possible.