The mental health and wellbeing of older Australians is being compromised by an all too common misunderstanding of their needs and limited availability of specialist services, according to the Mental Health Commission of NSW.
In response, the Commission today launched two documents: Living Well in Later Life: The case for change and a statement of 11 principles which it will urge all relevant Government and non-Government organisations to adopt.
The documents 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.
“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 NSW Mental Health Commissioner Mr John Feneley.
Mr Feneley said that while 11 per cent of older people experienced high levels of psychological distress, these could be greatly reduced through a range of measures outlined in the papers.
“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,” he said.
“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."
The Commission calls upon all organisations working with older people to adopt the vision outlined in the Principles Statement and identify the necessary funding, training and education resources to imbed these Principles in their practices and programs.
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About the Mental Health Commission of NSW:
The Mental Health Commission of NSW was established under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 and came into operation on 1 July 2012. The Commission is an independent statutory authority established with the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and improving the mental health system and the mental health and wellbeing of the people of NSW. In all its work the Commission aims to reflect the experience of people who live with mental illness, their families and carers.