World Mental Health Day… what does it mean?

Betty Mavhunga

Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing
Category: Nursing and midwifery

25 October 2013

I commenced my 2nd year of mental health nursing this September and in this semester we have three modules which look at philosophy and values of mental health nursing, evidence-based practice and one module which will be placement based.

In the first year of our course all nursing students were in one big group, but this year we’re in our own smaller group (mental health) which gives focuses more on our field of study. So far we have covered the history of mental health, types of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia to name a few. In this blog I am going to describe what mental health is and what I thought mental health was before I started my course, as well as looking at World Mental Health Day.

The World Health Organisation (2010) stated that mental well-being “is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease”. It relates to the promotion of recovery which includes; well-being, prevention of mental disorders, treatment and the rehabilitation of people affected by mental disorders.

Mental health promotion requires multi-sector action that involves a number of government sectors and non-governmental or community-based organisations. The focus should be on promoting mental health throughout the lifespan to ensure a healthy start in life for children and to prevent mental disorders in adulthood and old age.

World Mental Health Day was held on the 10th of October 2013 and this year the theme of the day was “Mental health and older adults”. Today there are 800 million people aged 60 and over, all with an increased life expectancy, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that soon there will be more older people on the planet than any other age group. Therefore understanding and improving the mental health of this generation is of great significance and important to every one of us.

There seems to be a common misconception that mental health issues affecting older people are somewhat normal, acceptable and to be expected. But this is simply untrue, and adhering to such a concept is only letting down the people who need us the most. These people raised us, fought for our rights and worked hard for our futures. According to World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) 2010 report, it is understood that the mental health of older adults rests on the promotion of active and healthy ageing, which is the core of fighting ageism.

What I have realised about World Mental Health Day is that it raised people’s awareness on the fact that we all have mental health issues within us but the way it manifests on every individual is different. For older people this Mental Health Awareness Day can help promote good mental health that involves maintaining good physical health, social relationships and having meaningful activity after retirement. It also helps them not to be victim of ageism.

The area of ageism is believed to be under-acknowledged as few resources are put into developing awareness amongst older adults. For example, waiting times for someone with mental health issues on the NHS can be 6-12 months, which is a very long time if you are 85 year old and severely depressed. The most common treatment always start with medication which often takes at least three months before offering therapeutic benefit and it must be supported with psychological intervention. I feel that older adults are frequently left out with poor intervention so that resources can be targeted to younger, active people with ‘lives to live’.

However, it is difficult to ignore the plain fact that suicide rates among older men is increasing. WHO (2010) states that depression affects 1 in 5 people over the age of 60, increasing when people turn 70. I think that this is an alarming rate and something needs to be done.

On this note I will finish off by pleading to everyone; young, old, healthcare professionals, non-governmental organisations and any concerned individual to help with awareness of mental health for older adults; and if you have an older adult near you it would be nice to check up and help them by pointing them to the right place such as MIND, mental health organisation where they can get help, and make this world a better place for them to live.
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