Older adults at risk for mental health problems
May is Mental Health Month. It celebrates the importance of good mental health and the power of effective treatment to improve the quality of life for adults, children and families. May 22-28 is Older Americans Mental Health Week an opportunity to raise awareness about seniors and mental health. This year, 7.5 million adults 65 years and older will have some form of diagnosable mental illness. By 2030, this figure is expected to reach 14 million. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses in older adults. Chronic illness can trigger clinical depression.n People older than 65 account for 20 percent of all suicide deaths; the suicide rate for the elderly rose 9 percent between 1980 and 1992. White men older than 85 are at the greatest risk for suicide; while the elderly make up only 13 percent of the population, they account for almost 20 percent of the suicides. Only 2-4 percent of older adult suicides are due to a terminal illness. Two-thirds of the older adults were in relatively good physical health when they committed suicide. Suicide rates are highest in the mountain states in the elderly population. Older adults are less likely to call crisis lines, and limited incomes and smaller benefit payments for mental health services often prevent people from receiving treatment. As many as 75 percent of depressed older Americans are not receiving needed treatment, yet more than 80 percent of all people with depression can be successfully treated with medication, psychotherapy or both. Primary care physicians, the medical profession most frequently seen by older people, often fail to diagnose depression in older adults. With treatment, older adults recover from mental illness at the same rate as younger people. The earlier mental health problems are identified, the less they interfere with ones daily functioning, interpersonal relationships and physical health and the easier they are to treat. Depression is not a normal part of aging. For confidential online depression and anxiety screening through the Mental Health Association of Colorado, visit http://www.mhacolorado.org.
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