Depression and suicide rates are alarmingly high among older Australians. According to Beyondblue, around 15 per cent of Australians over 65 are depressed.

Statistics also showed that men over 85 were the most likely age group to take their own life with 39.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

With symptoms often being dismissed, there has been call for more research into depression and mental health issues in older Australians.  

For people living in aged care, it’s been reported that depression rates are as high as 50 per cent.

In hopes to help combat the mental health issues of the elderly, the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has partnered with Beyondblue to launch a $5 million research grant round.

Dr Stephen Carbone, Policy, Research and Evaluation Leader has high hopes for the new grant, “we’re looking for innovation, we’re looking for people to come forward with new ideas of how we can prevent depression, anxiety and suicide”.

It has been suggested that there are situations where medications are prescribed, such as antidepressants, when other forms of support would be more appropriate.

The NHMRC has called current prevention efforts “limited and uncoordinated” while the detection and management that is offered is “suboptimal”.

Depression and anxiety in different age groups can be caused by various reasons and manifest in different symptoms – and for that reason cannot all be treated the same.

Depression in older people may be caused by a sudden change in their life; older people are more likely to face issues such as physical illness or personal loss.

For those who live in aged care, the change in their lifestyle or social isolation can also cause mental health issues, and for them it is harder to receive support as they are excluded from Medicare-funded psychological treatments which are available to the wider community.

Many older people come from a generation where there was a stigma attached to mental health issues, a stigma that still exists today to a lesser degree.

Things like depression and suicidal thoughts were viewed as weaknesses or character flaws rather than a genuine health condition.

For this reason, many older people are hesitant to share their experiences of anxiety and depression with others, often ignoring symptoms over long periods of time and hiding it from loved ones.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you want more information about depression or anxiety contact Beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or talk to your GP or local health professional.

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