Mental Health Month: Older Adults and Seniors

May 5th, 2016

Mental Illness touches everyone. One in five adults experience mental illness every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. May is Mental Health Month, an effort to support those experiencing mental illness, educate the public, advocate for equal care and fight for this year’s theme, Life with a Mental Illness.

Each year, millions of Americans live with a mental health condition. But only 41 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 

Particularly, there is an increased need for services for older adults and seniors suffering from mental conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This is a growing issue that is only getting bigger as the baby boomer generation ages. According to the World Health Organization, the number of persons aged 60 or over is expected to more than triple by 2100. It is estimated 15 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. 

Older adults with mental disorders often do not seek treatment and are more likely to visit their primary care doctor with a physical complaint. Often the stigma surrounding mental illness makes people reluctant to seek help. In order to remove the negative stigma from mental illness, we must see the person as an individual, not a diagnosis. 

In hopes of increasing the conversation on mental illness, it is important to be aware of the symptoms, which can include extreme emotions, excessive worries and withdrawal from loved ones, significant tiredness, alcohol abuse and suicidal thinking.  If you notice any of these signs and you think the situation is an emergency, please dial 911. 

Often, identifying symptoms early is the first step to recovery and seeking help from mental health programs can drastically improve quality of life.

For more information about mental illness conditions, symptoms and treatment, or to find a mental health services provider in your area, please visit


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