Older adults tend to under-use mental health services for a variety of reasons, including social stigma, ageism, transportation problems, costs, and misconceptions about aging and mental health.1 Beliefs that mental health disorders and treatment are shameful, represent a personal failure, or will lead to a loss of autonomy, lead many of those in need to deny having a mental health problem, or to refuse treatment from a mental health provider.2 Although adults 60 years of age and older constitute 13 percent of the United States population, their use of inpatient and outpatient mental health services falls far below expectations.3
Recognizing and treating mental illnesses among older adults is important. The rate of suicide among older adults is higher than that for any other age group - and the suicide rate for persons 85 years and older is the highest of all: twice the overall national rate.
Reducing the negative attitudes associated with mental illness among older people can help save lives, help more older people lead fuller lives, and is particularly important in healthcare settings, senior centers and nursing homes, and families.
1 Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. (October 1999.) The Advocate.
2 Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
3 Trudy Persky, Trudy. Mental Health and Aging, last referenced 6/25/07.