The mental health and wellbeing of older Australians is being compromised by a lack of understanding of their needs and the limited availability of specialist services.
In response, the Mental Health Commission of NSW today (25 July) released Living Well in Later Life: The case for change, which maps how systems, services and attitudes about older people must change. It is accompanied by A Statement of Principles which the Commission will urge all relevant Government and non-Government organisations to adopt.
The resources are the result of a collaboration between the Commission, older consumers and carers, and key organisations such as Council on the Ageing NSW, the NSW Ministry of Health, The Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age (NSW Branch) of the RANZCP and the NSW Health Education and Training Institute. They were officially launched by the NSW Minister for Mental Health, the Hon. Tanya Davies MP, at an event at Parliament of NSW attended by 65 people.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner Mr John Feneley told the launch audience that while 11 per cent of older people experienced high levels of psychological distress, this could be greatly reduced through the range of measures outlined in the papers.
“There is an unjustified sense of resignation when it comes to the mental health of older people – whether we are talking about recovery-based treatment for mental illness, or initiatives to improve mental wellbeing and prevent disorders like depression and anxiety,” said Mr Feneley.
“People who are over 65 today were brought up in a stoic culture where mental illness was stigmatised and those in distress were told to ‘get over it’, so asking for help was difficult.
“Now they are older they face a second set of barriers in ageism, lack of age-appropriate services and a lack of focus on real issues that affect them, such as suicide risk."
He called upon all organisations working with older people to adopt the vision outlined in the Statement of Principles and identify the necessary funding, training and education resources to imbed these Principles in their practices and programs.
Please see also the Commission's submission regarding this issue to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs.