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Monday, August 13, 2007

Older people with mental health problems face discrimination

A mental health pandemic and an inadequate Government response mean that over 3.5 million older people who experience mental health problems do not have satisfactory services and support, according to the final report from UK inquiry into Mental Health and Well Being in Later Life- a major independent inquiry by Age Concern.

As far as depression is concerned some conclusions from this report:
1. One in four older people living in the community have symptoms of depression that are severe enough to warrant intervention.
2. Only a third of older people with depression ever discuss it with their GP.
3. Only half of them are diagnosed and treated, primarily with anti-depressants.
4. Depression is the leading risk factor for suicide. Older men and women have some of the highest suicide rates of all ages in the UK.

Solutions from this report:
1. Ending discrimination is the first priority.
2. Prioritising prevention is essential. Many mental health problems in later life can be prevented.
3. Enabling older people to help themselves and each other is important.
4. Improving current services is necessary.
5. Facilitating change requires action in several areas.

I can't judge the political background of this report. As I learned from other sources mental health care for adults was in a deplorable state in the UK, probably improving in the recent years. So why shouldn't mental health care for the elderly have the same problem. As in most other western societies the percentage of elderly is increasing.
About the solutions the only ominous sign is that there is no where any mentioning of funding for these changes. I am curious for the promise that Age Concern have agreed to audit responses to these recommendations and report on progress in 2009.
As mentioned in an earlier article a part of the problem is the myth: the widespread defeatism which leads people to believe that mental health problems are an inevitable part of growing older and therefore nothing can be done.
The full report as well as the press release, and a summary can be downloaded on a website.
Newspapers also noticed the conclusions and have written articles about this report:
The Guardian
BBC News
Evening Standard

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