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Push for better mental health care for seniors

The Mental Health Commission of NSW has launched two new resources to work towards better mental health outcomes for older people.

The documents, Living Well in Later Life: The case for change and a Statement of Principles, set out the challenges that need to be addressed to support the mental health and wellbeing of older Australians.

The resources launched on Tuesday at NSW Parliament House, are the result of a collaboration between the Commission, older consumers and carers, and key organisations such as Council on the Ageing NSW, the NSW Ministry of Health, The Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age (NSW Branch) of the RANZCP and the NSW Health Education and Training Institute.

The Commission is calling on all organisations working with older people to adopt the vision outlined in the principles statement and to embed these principles in their practices and programs.

“There is an unjustified sense of resignation when it comes to the mental health of older people – whether we are talking about recovery-based treatment for mental illness or initiatives to improve mental wellbeing and prevent disorders like depression and anxiety,” said NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley.

Ageism, a lack of age-appropriate services and insufficient focus on suicide risk are some of the major barriers to improving the mental health outcomes of older people, said Mr Feneley.

The initiative highlights innovative case studies in older people’s mental health such as the development of peer worker models where older people with lived experience of mental illness provide support to other consumers.

The Living Well in Later Life statement of principles are:

  1. Promote prevention and early intervention in later life
  2. Eliminate ageism and related stigma and discrimination
  3. Increase participation of older people in the decisions which affect them
  4. Increase ageing-friendly, culturally informed and accessible services and information
  5. Reduce suicide and suicide risk in older people
  6. Implement person-centred, trauma-informed recovery-focused approaches, including older person peer worker models
  7. Increase the focus on mental health as being equally important as physical health in care responses for older people
  8. Increase the number and capacity of specialist services for older people in line with population ageing
  9. Increase workforce knowledge and skills
  10. Reduce service fragmentation and access barriers through improved governance, care pathways and funding models at federal, state and local levels
  11. Promote the quality use of medicines for older people

For more information on the project and to download the resources, visit the Mental Health Commission of NSW website.

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One Response to Push for better mental health care for seniors

  1. Caroline August 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    Glad to read that mental health of older adults is being discussed in a public space. While I agree with the push for specialist mental health services, I would like to promote the inclusion of counseling delivered in community by professionals other than psychologists and health-specific mental health services. Counselling, as a service type, also has a place in supporting older adults to navigate the challenges of ageing with treated/untreated, identified/unidentified, acknowledged/unacknowledged mental illness that may intersect with a range of social challenges such as addictions, homelessness, financial abuse, housing, etc.

    We need to create spaces that allow a much open acceptance of other professionals as well as identify people interested in this space; provide opportunities for people to build skills in counseling older adults; and validate counseling as a service type that can benefit older adults.

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