Kari Bourne

Our seniors losing the battle with depression, anxiety

RETIREMENT is an opportunity to acknowledge that you've earned the right to have more time for yourself.

For some people this is a relief but for many it is time of nervousness or sadness.

Little is publicly discussed about mental illness in the older population, and yet Australia's population is rapidly aging.

Today 13% of our population is over the age of 65 years: by 2051, 26% of the population will be over 65 years.

Mood disorders such as depression are the most common type of mental health problem.

An older person may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, they have felt down most of the time, or if they have lost interest in most of their usual activities.

It is thought that between 10 and 15 % of older people experience depression and about 10 % experience problems with anxiety.

Rates of depression among people living in residential aged-care facilities are believed to be much higher, at around 35%.

Men over the age of 85 are more likely to die by suicide than Australians of any other age group, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The suicide rate for men aged 85 and older was 37.6 per 100,000 in 2012, more than triple the national rate.

If you know someone who needs help, contact Lifeline on 131 114 or Suicide Call Back on 1300 659 467

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ONE of Australia's foremost authorities on mental health has warned of a dire need for more mental health services targeted at the nation's ageing population.

Former health adviser to the Rudd Government, John Mendoza, said the rates of suicide in men in the over-75 and over-85 age group were dramatically rising.

He said suicide in the elderly was often brought on by an overwhelming sense of loss.

"This could be loss of their partner, loss of their mobility, or loss of their health.

"They're getting so desperate that they take their own life.

"It's pretty clear that we have a rising need for mental health services for this population."

Mr Mendoza said Queensland needed to follow Victoria's lead. Specialists work with aged-care providers across the state in residential homes to improve mental health awareness and access specialists in aged-care mental health services

Mr Mendoza said the current services in Queensland relied on the individual to access services through their GP.

But owing to the stigma surrounding mental health, older adults were often more reluctant to start a conversation with their GP about these issues.

Mr Mendoza believes the government 

needs to rebalance political funding so Australians receive a greater share of resources for health overall.

"Overall we see yet again from the national data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, we are not spending nearly enough on mental health," he said.

"Until we lift the percentage of mental health expenditure . . . we will continue to chase our tail."

Mr Mendoza is the director of ConNetica, a suicide-prevention program, that mainly deals with people over 50. He provides policy advice and direction.



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