Over the last 3 years, The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester (MHCGM) has placed a renewed focus on treating the mental health needs of the older adult community. The senior population is sometimes overlooked when it comes to mental health services, yet statistics show that, nationally, 15 older adults die by suicide each day. In other words, an older adult dies by suicide every 95 minutes. In the Granite State, we have one of the highest median ages in the nation, second only to Maine, with 20% of residents over age 60. Much of the work The Mental Health Center has done will help to address opportunities and challenges for community members going forward.
Older adults can encounter specific risk factors such as isolation, insomnia, substance misuse, physical disorders or illness and many can suffer from grief, feelings of fear, anxiety or depression, which take a toll on one’s mental well-bring. To combat these issues, The Mental Health Center has spent the last two years working with Primary Care Practices of community partners such as, Dartmouth Hitchcock, Elliot Health System and Catholic Medical Center, to offer education and awareness surrounding the specific needs and missed opportunities with the older adult segment. Thanks to multiple grants from the Mary & John Elliot Charitable Foundations Pearl Manor Fund, MHCGM has been able to bring more awareness to the subject of ageism and stigma, which is often attached to that population. Many local healthcare practitioners were trained in “best practices” when working with older adults, and a video was also produced, which highlights members of the community who openly discuss their mental health and ongoing recovery.
Although The Mental Health Center is seeing an uptick in the number of older adults who seek treatment or who are referred to collaborative programs, such as REAP (Referral, Education, Assistance, Prevention), efforts and advances continue to reduce the challenges that people face in seeking additional care. Obstacles to treatment that some may experience can include transportation, frailty or even the need for multiple services. We now have ways to overcome those obstacles and challenges, but the first step is getting into treatment.
Recently, The Mental Health Center created an “Advocates for the Aging” steering committee, which will look at internal practices to develop specific goal-oriented deliverables for enhancing outcomes of the older adult segment. Marketing collateral will also be created with an overall hope of improving the experiences involved with getting older. We want people to understand that their symptoms are treatable and with the addition of many new programs now available, barriers to treatment can be alleviated, which can result in a much higher quality of life. We encourage older adults to give us a call as we want to support and promote healthy aging in our community.