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Mental health matters

Mental health integral to wellness among seniors


SEEKING HELP — Wise Health System’s Behavorial Health features an inpatient program that offers group therapy. (Stock photo representative of service. Not an actual patient.) COURTESY/WISE HEALTH SYSTEM

SEEKING HELP — Wise Health System’s Behavorial Health features an inpatient program that offers group therapy. (Stock photo representative of service. Not an actual patient.) COURTESY/WISE HEALTH SYSTEM

Stigma surrounding mental illness was a significant barrier that deterred older American’s from seeking treatment for mental health issues, according to a 2011 study that examined mental health treatment among older adults.

Despite gains, that barrier remains with senior citizens encountering mental distress, said Charles Harolds, Wise Health System director of Behavioral Health.

“A lot of people in the past generations don’t believe in the validity of it,” Harolds said.

Still Harolds said seeking help for mental health issues and depression is crucial for older people to help with mental health crises and depression.

Seniors face unique challenges, with physical health and late-life circumstances leading to deterioration in mental health.

The study, that examined disparities in help seeking by age and race, found 85 percent of participants age 60 to 93 endorsed having had depressed mood for at least several days, and 42 percent felt depressed down or hopeless at least half the days over the past two weeks. Despite high rates of depression symptoms, more than half of study participants had never seen a health professional.

There are local resources that provide mental health treatment for senior citizens. Wise Health System Behavioral Health has experience with geriatric care, focusing on the strengths and contributions of patients to their families, homes and community.

“It’s gratifying to see them come out of it,” he said.

Among the programs offered at Wise Health System’s Behavioral Health center is its Pathways Intensive Outpatient Program. The program emphasizes the importance of mental health and medical care as keys to overall wellness. Harolds said isolation and inactivity can cause deterioration of physical health. The program includes group therapy, helping seniors who may have been withdrawn, and offers the chance to talk with peers who may be encountering similar circumstances.

“Whether it’s a chronic depression or situational, like grieving for a lost loved one, we have several experienced therapists who work with the patients, and help get them through that,” Harolds said.

The Pathways Intensive Outpatient Program is for all adults. It includes:

  • Psychiatric Evaluation
  • Symptom Management and Education
  • Medication Education
  • Health and Wellness Training
  • Enhanced Life Skills
  • Coping and Stress Management
  • Self-Esteem and Assertiveness
  • Coping and Problem Solving
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The Pathways Intensive Outpatient Program, staffed with licensed professionals, provides treatment 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“If they come to the therapy where they see other people who have similar challenges, and talk through getting past those challenges with each other, it’s almost like a support group at times,” Harolds said. “They encourage each other and give each other ideas on how to work through it.”

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