As is the custom this Thursday, the 10th October, is World Mental Health Day (WMHD), one of the annual dates considered sufficiently important to be supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Each year a particular theme is chosen for the day. Last year, this was Depression, which is in effect where this blog started with my post for that day. The theme chosen for this year is ‘Mental Health and Older Adults’ – OK, own up, who told them I’d just retired?
Realistically, this wasn’t chosen just for me! Information given by the WHO makes it abundantly clear why this selection is so important:
- the global population is ageing rapidly, and by 2100 the number of people aged 60 and over is forecast to have tripled from the current level of 605 million to more than 2 billion, out of world total populations of around 7.1 billion now and a forecast 10.8 billion by 2100. This would represent an increase from 8.5% to 18.5% of the total;
- approximately 20% of those aged 60 or over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder of some kind;
- the most common mental health problems in this age group are dementia and depression;
- mental health problems are under-identified by healthcare professionals and by older people themselves.
Putting all of this together it becomes immediately apparent that the usual clichés like ‘ticking time bomb’ and ‘disaster waiting to happen’ are hardly understatements! We are all getting older every day – a deep, philosophical insight there – and may well reach the point when we need care and support in our later years. Increasing awareness of these issues now is vitally important, as services worldwide struggle to cope with current levels of need against a backdrop of reductions in funding. We will all need to be more aware than we are now of how mental health problems can affect older people and be ready to do all that we can to help, whether this be by caring for family, friends or neighbours or by contributing time or money to charitable work in this field. To give you a personal view, my post earlier this year for Dementia Awareness Week shows in its own small way how this pervasive disease can affect those who love the sufferer. I know that I’m classified as being ‘vulnerable’: I have just retired, which is a major life change, I live alone and I am in recovery from a long spell of depression. But I’m not going to let this worry me, nor am I going to just sit here and wait to become ill. I am taking plenty of steps to ensure that I don’t yield to that vulnerability, and hope that you will do the same for yourself and your loved ones.
There are many organisations that provide help in this area, some of which are linked in my ‘Blogroll’ below left. A very good general site for all sorts of information is the Mental Health Foundation, whose main event this year is to encourage people to talk about mental health for older people – the Tea and Talk campaign. The Foundation’s page on WMHD can be found here. Please do take some time to look at this, follow some of the links for further information, and see all sides of mental health issues for older people, both good and not so good. It could be you or someone close to you that needs help and understanding at some point.