The Whole Person: Mental Health in the Elderly

May 14, 2013
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Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. This is true for people of all ages. With the stigma surrounding therapy diminishing, more seniors have been exploring the option of psychological counseling. The New York Times recently published an article about the increase in therapy for older adults. In this article Dolores-Gallagher Thompson, a professor in the department of psychiatry at Stanford is quoted, “We’ve been seeing more people in their 80s and older over the past five years, many who have never done therapy before. Usually, they’ve tried other resources like their church, or talked to family. They’re realizing that they’re living longer, and if you’ve got another 10 or 15 years, why be miserable if there’s something that can help you?” It is important to realize that people are entitled to happiness regardless of how many years are left in their life. There is never a point where a person should simply give up on enjoying life. We need to remind this to ourselves and our loved ones.  Sometimes we need to sort out certain issues within ourselves or release certain burdens we have been carrying around in order to feel happy with ourselves and our lives again. Seeking therapy can help with this.

In the NY Times article Marvin Tolken, age 83 said, “Everybody needs help, and everybody makes mistakes. I needed to reach outside my own capabilities.” You should never feel ashamed to reach out for help, and it is never too late to do so. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 6.5 million Americans over age 65 suffer from depression. Many of these older individuals may have felt uncomfortable seeking help in the past because they grew up in a generation where therapy was viewed as a weakness.  However, over time this negative view of mental illness has changed and more people are beginning to recognize the positive aspects of therapy and talking about their problems. To read the NY Times article and to see what seniors have to say about their experience with therapy click here.

If you or a loved one is interested in psychological counseling the following links may be helpful: South Oaks Zucker Hospital Senior Option Systems Homebound Counseling Mental Health Association of Nassau County Mental Health Association of Suffolk County Geriatric Mental Health Alliance of NY

Written by Jennifer Wilson, Social Work Resource Assistant

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