About Mental Health Week
CMHA introduced Mental Health Week (MHW) in 1951 to raise awareness of mental illness in Canada. Today, MHW offers practical ways to maintain and improve mental health and support recovery from mental illness and addictions.
CMHA’s 65th Annual Mental Health Week is fast approaching (May 2-8). And again this year, CMHA is asking Canadians to GET LOUD about the mental health of seniors.
Getting loud means speaking up to stop the discrimination and the stigma that usually go hand in hand with mental illness. It means using your voice to raise awareness and build support. For someone at work. For someone at home. For yourself.
Currently, one in four Canadian seniors has a mental health issue. And there is growing evidence that the incidence of mental illness is increasing in older adults.
Older people can also have problems related to substance use, particularly tobacco and alcohol. Overuse and misuse of prescription medications can pose problems as well. Men over the age of 80 are the group with the highest suicide rate in Canada.
Seniors are at risk for mental illness and addictions. Some seniors already have a mental health issue from earlier in life. Others have a mental health problem such as depression that developed later in life. Perhaps they have lost a loved one or suffered a stroke. Seniors are often undertreated for mental health problems. Reasons may include:
- 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.
What can we do?
If you are a senior with a mental health issue, there are treatment options and strategies that can help:
- Talk to your family doctor: They can be a great resource, and can link you to other professionals, if needed. If you are in distress, go to the nearest hospital Emergency Department, call 911 or contact a crisis line.
- Talk with supportive friends and family: Share your feelings with them. Explain what you need and let them help you. Loved ones can offer both emotional and practical support—like scheduling appointments or finding services. They may observe early changes in a senior’s well-being, including setbacks and improvements.
- Connect with others who have personal experience with a mental health problem: Learn more about their recovery journey.
In addition to the support of family and friends, here are other sources of information and inspiration that can help:
- Websites of reputable mental health organizations such as CMHA visit mymentalhealth.ca to find supports in Alberta
- Books about specific mental health problems
- Online resources
- Courses and workshops offered through community centres, schools and universities
- People you admire for their ability to find balance
Safe and Caring has a few resources available for print and download. Check them out and share!
- Tip sheet: Keys to Mental Wellness and Happiness, from one student to another…
- Tip sheet: 8 Things Adults Can Do to support children’s mental health
- Fact infographic: 2016 Mental Health Week Infographic
- Mental health news bulletin: May 2015: Celebrating Health from Head to Heart to Toe!