May 16, 2017

New Research Grant Launched to Help Combat Elderly Mental Health

Depression and suicide rates are alarmingly high among older Australians. According to Beyondblue, around 15 per cent of Australians over 65 are depressed.

Statistics  also showed that men over 85 were the most likely age group to take their own life with 39.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

With symptoms often being dismissed, there has been call for more research into depression and mental health issues in older Australians.  

For people living in aged care, it’s been reported that depression rates are as high as 50 per cent.

In hopes to help combat the mental health issues of the elderly, the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has partnered with Beyondblue to launch a $5 million research grant round.

Dr Stephen Carbone, Policy, Research and Evaluation Leader has high hopes for the new grant, “we’re looking for innovation, we’re looking for people to come forward with new ideas of how we can prevent depression, anxiety and suicide”.

It has been suggested that there are situations where medications are prescribed, such as antidepressants, when other forms of support would be more appropriate.

The NHMRC has called current prevention efforts “limited and uncoordinated” while the detection and management that is offered is “suboptimal”.

Depression and anxiety in different age groups can be caused by various reasons and manifest in different symptoms – and for that reason cannot all be treated the same.

Depression in older people may be caused by a sudden change in their life; older people are more likely to face issues such as physical illness or personal loss.

For those who live in aged care, the change in their lifestyle or social isolation can also cause mental health issues, and for them it is harder to receive support as they are excluded from Medicare-funded psychological treatments which are available to the wider community.

Many older people come from a generation where there was a stigma attached to mental health issues, a stigma that still exists today to a lesser degree.

Things like depression and suicidal thoughts were viewed as weaknesses or character flaws rather than a genuine health condition.

For this reason, many older people are hesitant to share their experiences of anxiety and depression with others, often ignoring symptoms over long periods of time and hiding it from loved ones.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you want more information about depression or anxiety contact Beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or talk to your GP or local health professional.

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  1. Do you think we need to look at providing more support and counselling in this transition period from home to residential care? This goes for the person entering care and the loved one or partner making this call. I am currently supporting a friend who has had to place her husband into residential care after 59yrs of marriage. Nobody can understand the hurt and the separation anxiety for both of them. He has dementia and other health issues. We write this off as he has dementia. He feels and hurts just as much as anyone else does . He has a disease but is still a person. Can we do more with this transition and support after? We are not doing near enough. Why are older men increasing in numbers of suicide incidence? We need to look at this,is it the social isolation and loss of a loved one, is it the fear of going into residential care, is it the fear of ageing and being unwell and dependent on others. We do so much research into everything ,lets identify why …exactly why …and address this alarming and growing issue. We do need to realise as your article stated, we are still dealing with a silent and proud generation.mental illness was not discussed . We need to now,.

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