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  • Karen Routt

Mental Illness in the Elderly: An Unrecognized Problem

Mental Illness in the Elderly: An Unrecognized Problem

Seventeen older adults commit suicide every day for one hidden reason: The ignorance towards elders with mental illnesses.

Does our society overlook the mental health issues in the elderly population? Yes. Do we say subconsciously that it is “too late” for them and that we should focus on our youth? Yes, and it is time to create change. We need to raise the awareness of this issue in order to get mental health organizations to better support the aging population. We also need to help the aging population in speaking up about their mental health issues and asking for support.

What was the motive behind the most violent public shooting in American History? Why did 64-year-old, Stephen Paddock, commit such a horrendous crime? Even though no motive has been confirmed, investigators and the public have yet to rule out mental illness or mental disorders, and are often overlooked and not considered as an actual issue in the senior community.

18-25 percent of elders need some type of mental health care. This group has the most cases of mental illness. Non-Hispanic adults within “age fifty to sixty-four were the group most likely to report that they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their lives.”

Americans tend to look to younger generations when the discussion of mental illness arises, but it’s time to think about those forgotten (the elderly) because without the necessary intervention and proper care, the elderly can be a danger not only to themselves but to those around them.

Out of all depression cases, 80 percent can be at least treated; however, many of them do not receive the necessary help because they don’t recognize the signs and their conditions, therefore, remain untreated.

Why are seniors overlooked in the mental illness dialogue? For one, people generally expect older adults to be composed, organize, and in control because of their experience in life whereas mental illness is regarded as disorganized, uncontrollable and menial. Furthermore, many healthcare professionals, citizens and media find that investing money and resources into the older adults is not beneficial. Perhaps, the most shocking reason for lack of mental help support for elders is the fact that the public does not care enough, which has significant and sometimes fatal effects.


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