Age should not be a barrier to support and treatment, says our member Deborah Coombs as we give our support to Age UK's new campaign.

Launched today in collaboration with NHS England, the campaign encourages older people to access treatment for mental health conditions, including counselling and psychotherapy.

New Age UK data reveals that more than six in 10 people in the UK aged 65 or over have experienced depression and anxiety.

Of these, more than half did not seek help as they thought ‘they should just get on with it’ and nearly a quarter relied on support from friends or family.

The new campaign hopes to boost talking therapy referrals by writing to GPs to urge them to look out for the symptoms of mental health problems in older people, along with making them aware of the NHS support services available.

Members of our Older People Expert Reference Group (OPERG) understand the importance of GP referral and encouragement to older patients. They are concerned that this is inconsistent, with assumptions being made about older patient’s preferences, and choice of talking therapies not being offered.

Deborah, a counsellor who runs a counselling service for a voluntary sector organisation in Kingston-upon-Thames and works in private practice, says: “We need to make it easier for older people to access counselling services.

“Social prescribing is one way that this can happen, but many GPs still don’t know about services that are available or only consider talking therapies at the point when medication has been rejected.

“In my experience older clients engage very well with counselling and age should never be a barrier to counselling.

“Many of the clients I see have fears about ageing, death and illness which it is hard for them to share with family. They often feel they need to protect their children or friends.

“Some older people also may not be very mobile – we offer them counselling in their homes to ensure it is accessible for them as this is all too often an additional barrier to them receiving counselling.”

Read more about the Age UK and NHS England campaign.

Deborah Coombs

Deborah Coombs says age should not be a barrier to counselling