October 10 is observed as World Mental Health Day
It is not only about dementia and Alzheimer’s. The new terms that plague the elderly are depression, anxiety and suicide.
Worry about health and an emptiness syndrome become the cause for depression and anxiety that lead to a hopeless end in suicide in some cases, according to psychiatrists.
World Federation of Mental Health and World Health Organisation are observing this year’s World Mental Health Day with the theme ‘Mental Health and Older Adults’.
It is focused on creating awareness among the older adults (above 50 years) and others below that age group that mental health of elderly is becoming a cause for concern.
According to D. Srinivasan, psychiatrist, Kovai Medical Center and Hospital, old age suicides due to depression and anxiety go unnoticed or ignored because of the age of the victims.
“On the health front, elders lose confidence as they age and even minor symptoms of illness make them worry. When they see younger men and women die of ailments, the worry turns into anxiety. Those who are not independent in terms of finance and mobility turn into chronic cases of depression. On the social front, with children no longer living with parents, the emptiness syndrome gets to the parents. Worthlessness, depression and hopelessness drives some elderly to suicide,” he says.
With many considering only dementia and Alzheimer’s as problems relating to the elderly, these comparatively less medical but nevertheless serious conditions seem to be gaining more significance from the number of cases psychiatrists are seeing.
That the State is also viewing this as serious can be seen from the programmes that it is implementing to address mental health among all strata of people.
C. Ramasubramaniam, State Nodal Officer of District Mental Health Programme (DMHP), says that the Government has implemented the programme in 16 districts over the last 10 years.
“The programme is expanding to another six districts and by next year is expected to cover 22 districts. The aim of the programme is to initiate treatment for mental illness at the Primary Health Centre (PHC) level so that people need not have to travel long distances,” he says.
“Each District Headquarters Hospital will get a 10-bed psychiatric ward. Also, the 16 districts that already have the DMHP going will get geriatric psychiatric clinics at the District Headquarters Hospital,” Dr. Ramasubramaniam says.
Although serious, Dr. Srinivasan says that problems such as depression and anxiety among the elderly can be overcome or better not allowed to develop if only they follow the strategies of ‘active ageing’ or ‘successful ageing’.
He recommends a few — it starts with retaining independence after retirement.
Keeping busy with voluntary work, forming groups with like-minded people, involving in community activities that will give them a new focus in life, moving to senior citizens’ homes in the absence of children, will ensure an organised manner of living that will not give place to thoughts of being unwanted or useless.