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Doctor Highlights Urgent Need for Support During Mental Health Awareness Week

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On the second week of May, between May 13th and May 19, Mental Health Awareness shines a light on a crisis often left in the shadows. This year, Oak Tree Mobility is drawing attention to an issue close to home, and deeply woven into the UK’s growing elderly community. A demographic that’s been silently suffering from a severe lack of mental health care.

Oak Tree Mobility shares the importance of checking in with elderly neighbours and family members, as research reveals that 1 in 5 Brits over the age of 65 reported a mental health need in 2022.

Mental health is an important issue at every stage of life, but it is especially important for elderly people to address their mental well-being as ageing can bring about many challenges to life as they once knew it. 

Nearly half of adults aged 55 years and older report having experienced depression and/or anxiety at some point in their lives. The most reported triggers for mental health problems are the death of loved ones (36%), financial worries (27%) and their own ill health (24%).

1 in 5 (21%) of the people who reported experiencing depression or anxiety said their symptoms had worsened with age.

The Hidden Battle

Depression, a somewhat invisible enemy, afflicts 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 and over. It’s not just a statistic; it’s widespread yet silent suffering.

Here’s where it hits hard: A massive 85% of older individuals, despite their struggles with depression, do not receive any assistance from the NHS.

NHS leaders have recently labelled mental healthcare in England a “national emergency,” citing services being “overwhelmed” and barely able to cope with the increasing demands of those seeking help. It’s clear: the mental health care system is teetering on the brink, struggling under the sheer weight of demand.

5 Signs that elderly people might be struggling with poor mental health

Keep an eye out for any of the below changes in your elderly friends and family members, to ensure you’re supporting their mental health needs: 

  1. Physical health problems. Chronic physical health problems or disabilities can lead to mental health problems, as they can cause pain, discomfort, and a sense of loss of control.
  2. Social isolation. Older adults may experience social isolation due to the loss of loved ones, reduced mobility, or other factors. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
  3. Loss and grief. The loss of loved ones and other life changes, such as retirement or moving to a new location, can be difficult for older adults and can lead to grief and depression.
  4. Stress. Older adults may experience stress due to financial concerns, caregiving responsibilities, or other challenges.
  5. Dementia. Dementia is a common mental health problem among older adults, and it can cause a range of cognitive and behavioural symptoms.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a neurophysiologist with a specialism in lifestyle interventions for the alleviation of mental disorders and sleep issues says:  “Older people for whom health problems and lack of mobility often mean getting out and about at this time of year is much harder. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation – even depression. Older people are already more vulnerable to mental health problems and depression affects around 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 years and over.  

“Connection is so important during this time as is getting as much natural daylight as possible, especially first thing in the morning.  If you know of someone who might be struggling on this day, please reach out and offer your support and company.  Even a smile and a brief chat can go a long way to raising someone’s spirits if they are feeling down and it is important that we make time to do it.”

Maintaining your mental health

There are steps that elderly people can take to improve and maintain their mental well-being, too. The mobility experts at Oak Tree Mobility share their top tips:

  • Stay connected with loved ones. Social connections are important for mental health at any age. Elderly individuals should make an effort to stay in touch with friends and family, whether through in-person visits, phone calls, or video chats.
  • Engage in activities that bring joy. It’s important to find activities that bring happiness and purpose, whether that’s gardening, reading, volunteering, or spending time with pets.
  • Seek professional help if needed. It’s OK to seek help from a mental health professional if feelings of sadness, loneliness, or other mental health concerns persist. A therapist or counsellor can provide support and coping strategies to help manage difficult emotions.
  • Take care of physical health. Physical health and mental health are closely linked. Elderly individuals should make sure to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep to promote overall well-being.
  • Get outside. Spending time outdoors, even in the winter months, can help improve mood and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

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