There has been an important shift in attitudes towards mental health. Politicians, celebrities and other prominent figures now talk openly about their experiences with mental health. Government too has recognised the need to improve mental wellbeing, particularly among our children and young people.
But one age group continues to be forgotten in terms of mental health. Our older population.
Older people face huge amounts of stigma and discrimination in terms of their mental health, and many of them still feel uncomfortable discussing their mental and emotional wellbeing – even with health professionals.
Issues like depression and anxiety are extremely prevalent in the older generation. Depression affects 22% of men and 28% of women, aged 65 or over, in England. But when it comes to getting emotional support, 85% of older people with depression receive no help at all from the NHS (Later Life in the United Kingdom 2016 - Age UK).
It is time to address this injustice, and improve mental health provision for older people.
We have made the mental health of older people a strategic priority for BACP. The election gives us our first opportunity to put forward our ideas on access to counselling for older people.
There needs to be a greater emphasis on the mental health of older people and a push to ensure increased access to psychological therapies for our ageing population. We’d also like to see an Older People’s Commissioner in England and Scotland – just like there is in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Parity has been a political buzz word over the last couple of years, but there’s no parity when it comes to older people accessing counselling. It’s time for that to change.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, who are supporting BACP’s campaign on improving older people’s mental health said:
"Historically older people haven’t always been able to access the support they need for their mental health and wellbeing. We know that older people with common mental health conditions are more likely to be on drug therapies and less likely to be receiving psychological therapies compared to other age groups. Some older people are told that low mood and depression are 'just a part of ageing'. With more of us living longer, we must be able to expect the support and services we need to maintain good mental health."
Deputy Chief Executive, BACP