Why aren’t seniors getting the mental health help they need?

Image: Why aren’t seniors getting the mental health help they need?

According to Statistics Canada, as many as 1.4 million elderly Canadians report feeling lonely (CBC Canada).

Loneliness can increase the risk for many health problems and unhealthy habits. An effect of loneliness that is often overlooked is the impact it can have on a senior’s mental health.

So why aren’t seniors getting the help they need?

Seniors are often undertreated for mental health problems. CMHA discusses some reasons why this may be:

  • Symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions: Many seniors have multiple health problems. It’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between signs of physical and mental illness. Also, symptoms of mental illness may look different in older adults.
  • Discrimination and stigma: Some people are unwilling to ask for help for fear of what others may think and how they may be treated. There are still many negative and mistaken attitudes around mental illness that fuel discrimination and stigma—and make it harder to reach out for help.
  • Believing it is too late in life to make changes: Seniors, family members and others can believe it is too late to do anything about poor mental and physical health in older age. It is never too late!
  • Physical and financial challenges: Getting to treatment can be a challenge for many older people with mobility issues. So is the cost of treatment. Not all mental health services are publicly funded. Seniors who don’t have private insurance may not be able to pay for services that aren’t covered.
  • Service availability: Everyone’s treatment needs are different, and sometimes the right services and community supports aren’t available when people need them.

How can you help yourself or your loved ones?

If you are a senior with a mental health issue, there are treatment options and strategies that can help. As a senior, keeping yourself moving, involved and engaged in the community can help you maintain positive mental health. If you are concerned about your own mental health or a loved one’s, consider talking to your family doctor, friends and family or contact Seniors for Seniors for a drop in visit from one of our friendly companions. They can be a great resource to link you to mental health professionals and provide emotional support.

Looking for more resources on Seniors mental health? Check out these services: